30 August 2010

Man pleads guilty in pirate attack on Ashland

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WASHINGTON — A Somali man pleaded guilty Friday to piracy-related charges for attacking a Navy ship in what the defendant said was a case of mistaken identity.
Jama Idle Ibrahim told authorities he intended to attack a merchant vessel to hold it for ransom and discovered that he was attacking a Navy ship instead.
Ibrahim entered the plea in federal court in Norfolk, Va.
“Today marks the first conviction in Norfolk for acts of piracy in more than 150 years,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “Modern-day pirates must be held accountable.”
Ibrahim and five other Somalis chased a ship they believed was a merchant vessel and started firing at the ship and the people on board before they were captured, according to court papers in the case.
The piracy-related acts to which Ibrahim pleaded guilty were attacking to plunder a vessel, engaging in an act of violence against people on a vessel and using a firearm during a crime of violence, all in connection with an attack against the dock landing ship Ashland on April 10.
Earlier this month, a judge dismissed piracy charges against the six Somalis. A conviction on the charge of piracy itself carries a mandatory life term.
The piracy-related charges carry a range of sentences from 10 years to life in prison.
The plea agreement said both parties agreed a sentence of 30 years in prison is appropriate. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 29.
Separately, Ibrahim was charged Friday in Washington, D.C., with an alleged act of piracy in the Gulf of Aden against a merchant vessel, the M/V CEC Future. In a document called a criminal information, Ibrahim was accused of conspiracy to commit piracy under the law of nations and conspiracy to use a firearm during a crime of violence.
A criminal information can only be filed with the defendant’s consent to waive consideration of his case by a grand jury; it typically signals that a person is preparing to enter a plea of guilty in a deal with prosecutors

International operation intercepts pirates off Somalia

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LONDON — Japanese, EU and NATO forces cooperated on Sunday to intercept pirates who were preparing to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden, the NATO counter-piracy task force said.
A Japanese Maritime Self Defence (JMSDF) aircraft spotted a pirate skiff with seven suspected pirates on board and alerted a helicopter from the Danish warship Esbern Snare under NATO command, which intercepted the skiff.
"Subsequently the suspected pirates threw their weapons overboard and surrendered," a NATO statement, released in London, said.
An Italian helicopter from another vessel under NATO command provided support for the operation.
Crew members from an American warship, the USS Kauffman, also in NATO's counter-piracy operation, boarded the skiff and found a ladder pirates used to board ships "and other pirate-related paraphernalia," the statement added.
"Once again the cooperation between ships and aircraft from different counter-piracy forces has proven immensely valuable," the commander of the NATO counter-piracy task force, Commodore Christian Rune, said.
The Danish ship involved in Sunday's operation also helped to foil a pirate attack on Saturday in response to a call for help from a merchant vessel.
Naval missions have boasted success in curbing pirate attacks but the number of hijacked ships and detained sailors remains at one of its highest levels since Somali piracy surged in 2007.
Unofficial figures show 2009 was the most prolific year yet for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks -- including 68 successful hijackings -- and ransoms believed to exceed 50 million dollars.
The NATO counter-piracy operation, codenamed Operation Ocean Shield, and the EU anti-piracy command are based in the London suburb of Northwood.

25 August 2010

Statement by Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, during a Security Council Debate on Piracy

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Thank you, Mr. President.

Let me begin by thanking the Secretary-General for his thoughtful report examining the options for prosecuting suspected pirates and imprisoning convicted ones. We hope very much that this report will help enlighten all concerned about the very real challenges we all face in this area. We also commend the Russian Federation for leading the call for this report and drawing attention to this important issue.

Mr. President, piracy is an old problem that has taken on troubling modern form. It continues to affect us all through increased risk to our citizens, disruption of global commercial shipping, and damage to property and goods. Ultimately, only security and stability in Somalia will resolve the root causes of its current piracy problem. Even so, the states and international organizations participating in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, including the UN, have made considerable contributions to the effort to suppress piracy in this critical region.

But significant challenges remain. The United States commends the efforts of individual states, the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, NATO’s Operations Allied Protector and Ocean Shield, and the Combined Maritime Forces’ Combined Task Force 151 to combat piracy and protect vulnerable ships making their way through the waters off the Somali coast. Still, these tremendous naval efforts will be of limited effect if suspected pirates are captured and released without judicial consequences when there is sufficient evidence to support prosecution. As the UN report notes, prosecution of suspected pirates and imprisonment of convicted ones are essential to end impunity for acts of piracy.

The Secretary-General’s report provides a balanced, thorough review of the pros and cons of seven distinct options on the issue. There are no easy answers to the exercise of bringing pirates to justice, and we welcome all creative ideas for tackling this thorny problem. Any long-term solution will require political will and financial resources from the international community and the states in the region.

The options in the Secretary-General’s report reflect discussions within the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia over the past two years, particularly in the Legal Working Group. The United States has been pleased to play an active role in the Contact Group, which is both an effective means of coordinating counter-piracy initiatives and a valuable and appropriate forum for building on the observations in the UN report.

We’re particularly grateful that the Secretary-General’s report discusses at length the vital issue of imprisonment. We agree with the report’s assessment that having sufficient arrangements for imprisonment in the region is just as important—if not more so—than the mechanism for prosecution. In fact, if such imprisonment arrangements could be identified, many more states may be willing to prosecute suspects in their national courts.

Mr. President, the United States welcomes the Secretary-General’s appointment of Jack Lang as the UN Special Advisor on Piracy. We look forward to working closely with him and coordinating our efforts.

Mr. President, let us be clear on the underlying dynamics involved. Ultimately, as has been said, the problem of piracy off the Horn of Africa will not be solved until Somalia is stabilized. To that end, the United States continues to strongly support the Djibouti Peace Process and the Transitional Federal Government.

Mr. President, the tragic events which took place yesterday in Mogadishu, which resulted in the death and injury of innocent civilians, including Members of the Somali Parliament, underscores the urgency with which we must address the terror and hardship all Somalis face on a daily basis. The United States joins our fellow Council members and the Secretary-General in condemning in the strongest possible terms these murderous acts, and we pledge our continuing support to AMISOM, the UN and the TFG in their efforts to bring peace and stability to this important country and hope for the future of the Somali people.

Thank you, Mr. President.