US State Dept: No Justification for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia
Tue, 22 Dec 2009 -0800 PST
by Tabitha Berg
Washington, DC /eNewsChannels/ — Pirates who prey on international shipping along the Horn of Africa and even more distant waters have claimed that their actions are motivated by illegal fishing in Somali waters. This is a spurious justification for criminal behavior. The United States and the international community stand with Somalia in countering illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing wherever it occurs.
Pirates continue to conduct violent attacks up to 1,000 miles and more from Somalia’s shores on private yachts, passenger cruise liners, and commercial vessels such as tankers and container ships that are clearly not involved in fishing.
The pirates are typically armed with military assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and are equipped with sophisticated global positioning devices and satellite phones. Their criminality is financed by individuals hoping to receive millions of dollars in ransom for the crews and ships that are seized successfully. Innocent mariners have been killed and wounded during some assaults. Others remain hostage for weeks or months as their pirate captors bargain for their freedom.
Piracy also harms millions of Somalis and others throughout East Africa who rely upon food assistance from the United States and the World Food Program, which is delivered by ships that have been menaced and even seized on occasion by these sea-borne criminals.
The United States understands that piracy’s roots are on shore, and supports a comprehensive approach to address poverty, governance, and instability in Somalia, conditions that are conducive to piracy. This approach should include strategies for economic development, pressuring local governance to take action against known pirate havens, and environmental conservation and fisheries management, including protection of sovereign fishing rights. Ultimately, restoring the rule of law will help the Somali Transitional Federal Government to bring pirates and other armed criminals to justice.
The United States and 44 other nations and seven international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, are working together through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (www.state.gov/t/pm/ppa/piracy/contactgroup/index.htm ) to develop and implement anti-piracy measures. To learn more about piracy off the coast of Somalia and the United States’ and international response to it, visit www.state.gov/t/pm/ppa/piracy/index.htm .