BY JAMES KANDOYA
Tanzania is yet to sign the protocol against piracy endorsed by the other East African and Indian Ocean littoral states, it has been learnt.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe clarified that Tanzania has yet to meet the international standards set by the European Union.
The country was urged to sign the protocol some two years ago. Under the protocol each country has to ensure that it has prepared to international standards the environment to facilitate prosecution of cases, accommodation of the prisoners and investigation departments.
Membe said Tanzania’s lack of experience in investigating and handling pirate cases, a new phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, led to the delay in signing the protocol.
He said Tanzania has been conducting training in order to meet the conditions set by the European Union (EU) to be allowed to prosecute pirate related cases, adding that Tanzania will sign the agreement by May this year.
The minister pointed out those countries which will prosecute pirates must have experts before signing the protocol.
“Experience from the Comoros and Seychelles which have handled such cases show that most pirates, especially Somalis tend to use vernacular languages, a situation which requires our country to have special translators,” Membe explained.
According to Membe prisons used to keep the pirates should meet international standards, including supply of newspapers, free access to information and availability of air condition in their rooms.
But the country’s prisons do not have the said facilities.
Pirates operating along the coast of East Africa, especially between Somalia and Kenya besides deaths, caused a major disruption to maritime trade, leading to intervention of navies of western powers to clear the sea lanes.
Maritime Security News Note:
The sooner Tanzania gets on board, the better. Although we’ve moved away somewhat from the ‘catch and release’ model employed by naval forces in recent years thanks to better evidence gathering, the more nations able to prosecute pirates, the better. Kenya has mounted several successful prosecutions and the Seychelles has been particularly successful; their Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC) celebrated its first birthday yesterday (February 25th).
EUCAP NESTOR has been busy in the region and can offer significant support financially, but clearly the legal framework and physical assets needs to be in place.
However, it has also been argued by some legal experts that the threat of prison is not a successful deterrent when it comes to piracy. Eugene Kontorovich, Professor of Law at Northwestern Law in America, is a recognised expert in piracy law. Earlier this year, he suggested that pirates were actually better off if they were in jail, since the conditions in most prisons used to house pirates were far better than life in Somalia. Short sentences also did little to put potential pirates off, particularly as the spoils of piracy could be so huge.
Professor Kontorovich echoed the belief held by many observers that pursuing low level foot soldiers rather than the people who finance and plan piracy operations had little impact on the crime in the long term. Going further, he also said (at least, according to this article) that the real difference in the battle against piracy has been the use of private maritime security companies and armed guards by merchant ships. And he’s certainly correct in that regard. Despite various navies claiming that their presence has been the reason for the drop off in successful attacks, it’s quite clear that the main reason pirates have not hijacked a ship off East Africa is the fact that they frequently come up against better armed and better trained men on a far more stable platform from which to shoot.
The risk/reward model has been turned on its head for some time now, but there are still opportunist gangs out there, looking for a soft target. And, if high ranking officers in certain sections of the naval coalition are to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before those same pirates come across a ship whose owners have read the media reports of falling piracy in the region and have decided to take a gamble and not hire a PMSC or adhere to BMP 4.