Flag States, Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel and Human Rights Violations at Sea

By Jessica N.M. Schechinger, Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam

Armed_guard_escort_on_a_merchant_shipIt is considered to be the task of a flag state to provide security to commercial vessels flying its flag (Spearin 2012). Yet flag states increasingly transfer this task by allowing ship-owners to hire Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) in order to protect vessel, cargo, and crew against piracy. In the Indian Ocean, for example, there are reportedly over 140 companies providing armed protection to vessels, employing a minimum of 2,700 armed guards (Tondini 2012). Compared to the classic situation where PCASP operate on land, more actors (both states and non-state actors), nationalities and jurisdictions are involved when PCASP operate on the high seas. Matters are often complicated due to the possibility of overlapping jurisdictions for the prescription and/or the enforcement of rules. The use of PCASP to protect international trade at sea can thus be rather problematic in practice, particularly in terms of accountability for human rights violations. A recent book chapter by Jessica N.M. Schechinger addresses this issue. It analyses the legal implications of human rights violations at sea by PCASP, and discusses the possible responsibility of flag states under international law.

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Combatting Maritime Piracy: African Perspectives on an Emerging Threat

Henri Fouché, University of South Africa (UNISA)

080906-N-1082Z-055In 2014 the South African Journal Acta Criminologica (Southern African Journal of Criminology) published a special edition on African perspectives on combating maritime crime. Most articles are based on papers presented at a conference entitled “Sea Piracy: International and Continental Responses” organised by the University of South Africa (UNISA) and which took place from 3-5 September 2013 at Muldersdrift, Gauteng province. The aim of the conference was to discuss and explore best practices for dealing with maritime piracy in terms of pro-active responses, jurisdiction and prosecution as well as new avenues for further research in the area of violent and organised crime in the maritime domain. Sixty delegates from navies, police, academia, and government departments, commercial shipping and international organisations participated in the conference. The conference took place at a time when the lessons learned from dealing with piracy off Somalia were able to be analysed, good practices extracted and recommendations formulated to deal with, not only piracy, but also possible future threats to security emanating from the African Maritime Domain.

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Pirate Mania: Counter-Piracy and the Security-Development Nexus in Somalia

Brittany Gilmer, Florida International University

Anti-Piracy OperationsFollowing the 2009 hijacking of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and kidnapping of its captain, rethinking the existing framework for combating piracy off the coast of Somali was next to inevitable. The Maersk Alabama hijacking not only raised questions about the size and capabilities of existing military deterrence efforts, but it also sparked discussions of increasing private security aboard shipping vessels. Since the introduction of private security aboard shipping vessels, the number of successful piracy attacks has steadily decreased. However, despite the steady decrease, counter piracy actors were calling for an expansion of the counter piracy framework to include strategies for combating piracy onshore in Somalia. In addition, counter piracy programming began seeping into the mandates of organizations that did not traditionally address piracy. The simultaneous expansion of the international counter piracy regime was co-constitutive of a growing sense of pirate mania. Until now, the geopolitics, actors, and motives behind these intersecting phenomena have not been examined in depth. Brittany Gilmer fills this gap in her book on Political Geographies of Piracy, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in October 2014.

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Strategies for Resolving Maritime Disputes: Privatization vs. Institutionalization

Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, University of Iowa and Stephen C. Nemeth, Oklahoma State University

Finding ways to resolve maritime disputes and to peaceably allocate maritime resources has become an important concern in international politics. Increasing global population growth combined with the increasing scarcity of some maritime resources has resulted in more frequent diplomatic claims between countries over maritime areas in the last few decades. Recent clashes between Japan and China over the maritime space around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands highlight the tensions that can arise in situations where two states make competing maritime claims. Japan and China have issued competing ownership claims, engaged in controversial attempts to drill for oil and natural gas, issued threats of air space violations in the area, and authorized clashes between their coast guard vessels over the islands. While both states have pursued strategies to privatize the area around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands through Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims, they have also sought to resolve their differences through a global institution, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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The Maritime Dimension of Conflict Prevention and Resolution: Lessons Learned from East Africa

Francois Vreÿ, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Africa’s maritime domain has steadily emerged as an important security landscape for Africans as well as for the wider international community. This importance is portrayed by the ever-growing number of naval vessels in African waters, but also in the turn to maritime matters taking place in the peace and security agenda of the African Union. It cannot be ignored that piracy off Somalia set the scene for much of the global maritime awakening. However, it is also necessary to place events off Africa within the wider realm of responses to conflict. Conflict prevention and conflict resolution are established ways to react to complex conflicts. Over time both have matured in a way that offers some useful pathways to understand and respond to the threats and conflicts of the early 21st century. Yet much of the learning curve to prevent or resolve complex and dangerous violent conflicts took place on land. Nevertheless Africa is experiencing rather dangerous and violent maritime spill-overs of landward conflicts. Though the international response is encapsulated by naval missions doing anti-piracy, a recent article in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, argues that it is also time to set the ongoing and even future maritime missions off Africa within the larger conflict resolution framework. East Africa offers the leeway to bring together some elements of theory and practice of maritime conflict resolution.

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What can Shippers do against Pirate Attacks? Insights from Situational Crime Prevention

By Jon. M. Shane and Shannon Magnuson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City

The shipping industry cannot rely on the navies and traditional law enforcement to protect them from pirate attacks and to hold pirates accountable. Patrolling the open waters is different from patrolling on land, crime is easier to perpetrate, harder to detect and harder to prevent. When pirates attack, an armed confrontation is likely, and violence occurs rather frequently (almost 37% in this study). The effectiveness of traditional law enforcement and prosecution efforts are limited in an international context, particularly when dealing with failed states. The limitations of traditional law enforcement are reflected in the dramatic increases in yearly piracy incidents. Even when traditional law enforcement operations are successful, the prosecution is beset by numerous delays and legal obstacles and incarceration is never guaranteed, all of which may attenuate the deterrent effect of arrest and prosecution. However, a recent study in Justice Quarterly argues that pirate attacks are not inevitable. Merchant marines and their vessels can protect themselves by taking measures that alter the transit environment. Situational crime prevention theory provides the framework for proactively deterring offending, in this case maritime piracy.

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