Pirates of Somalia

Pirates of Somalia

23rd April 2008, Comments 0 comments

Another boat seized is a wake-up call for international support of a UN-led fight against piracy.

THE hijacking of the Spanish tuna fishing boat Playa de Bakio (photo) off the coast of Somalia has once again shown how the weakness or non-existence of a state, in this case Somalia, and the dangers deriving from this situation, extend to the sea.

The proliferation of piracy in the waters around the Horn of Africa seriously affects fishing and tourism, as well as endangering people's lives. It ought to be a maximum priority for the international community, coming under the same heading as the struggle against terrorist activities.

What is essential on this occasion is to affect the liberation of the 26 members of the crew - 13 of them Spanish - and to attempt to capture the hijackers in order to bring them before Spanish justice, as French forces did after the liberation of the passengers of the luxury cruise ship, Ponant, though it is well to remember that a ransom had to be paid.

Solving a case like this one calls for close cooperation on the part of allied countries with more experience in problems of this type, such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the pressure that can be brought to bear by the European Union (EU).

However, the collaboration of the Somali authorities must also be obtained.

If the pirates have taken the Basque Country-based Playa de Bakio into the territorial waters of the African country, as seems to be the case, a possible intervention by the Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez - sent to the area to liberate the crew - will need the endorsement of the local authorities. But if this go-ahead is not forthcoming, the use of force need not be ruled out in a virtually lawless territory.

The present moments are tense ones in which it seems counterproductive to demand, as the Popular Party (PP) has done, that the foreign affairs and defence ministers appear in Congress to explain the situation; or to criticise, as the Basque National Party (PNV) has done, the performance of the government to the effect that Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has "left the hijacked crew to their fate".

Nor do the Basque regional government's publicly announced desires to participate in the negotiations seem very constructive.

It is also essential, in the medium term, that the international community take action in this matter. And this is not impossible. Thanks to the joint efforts of countries in the region, piracy has been considerably reduced in the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia.

In the case of Somalia, it is more difficult, since the non-existence of a state worthy of the name enables the pirates to possess safe refuges on the coast from which to demand their ransoms. They can move freely on the sea in waters where there are no fishing regulations.

In an age of satellite vigilance, the international community, including Spain, with helicopter-equipped naval patrols, ought to be able to make it impossible for these criminals to carry out their activities.

It would help a great deal if the United Nations Security Council were to enact worldwide legislation against piracy, an area in which the EU ought to take the lead.

[El Pais / Expatica]

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