A Danish Anti-Piracy Approach

I know you might be busy with your Easter holiday weekend – but any chance you have been keeping up with the latest pirate-saga going on just off the coast of Somalia? The news from there could get very exciting, very soon, since not only the US Navy but also the pirates are reported to be dispatching ships to the spot on the high seas where a lifeboat from the ship Maersk Alabama containing pirates and their hostage, that ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, currently is in a face-off with the US destroyer U.S.S. Bainbridge. Meanwhile, around last midnight Phillips tried to jump out of that lifeboat and swim to the Bainbridge, but was recaptured by the pirates. There’s plenty of coverage about all of this in the various European national presses, but the latest article from the New York Times provides a pretty complete account of what is going on there as well.

The second-order discussion here, of course, is over what can be done to eradicate these dangerous maritime nuisances, who since the latter part of last year have become particularly audacious. If you have any ideas and are looking to get into a discussion, then you can of course e-mail me at this weblog, and/or you can resort to fora from the New York Times or the BBC. In the meantime, though, the Danish legislature (the Folketing) has an official solution that it would like brought up before the United Nations, as reported in Berlingske Tidende (Danish proposal should go to UN).

It should be no surprise that the Danes already have a solution to propose, for at least two reasons: 1) The Danes come out of an activist, Protestant, we-can-change-the-world-if-we-try culture that finds it impossible to encounter a problem like this and just shrug its shoulders and move on, and 2) They are heavily involved in international shipping. Indeed, that container ship at the center of the current stand-off, the Maersk Alabama, is owned by a Danish conglomerate, the A.P. Møller-Mærsk Group. The Folketing’s plan was drawn up by the Danish Institute for Military Studies, and it’s a fairly simple one, that starts with the establishment of a regional coast guard for the Somali coast, with start-up costs paid for by the UN, that can serve to warn passing shipping about the specific presence of pirates. But the second essential element is the establishment of some sort of court, with a firm basis in international law to be able to try pirates for their crimes. For one glaring problem is that, too often, Western naval personnel who have actually captured pirates have basically had to throw them right back, like fish that local gaming regulations won’t allow you to keep. We’ve covered this particular problem before here, and this does raise the question about – even if some sort of international court is established to try the pirates – who will be responsible for ensuring that whatever punishment that court prescribes is actually carried out? That point still seems to be a hole in the Danish proposal.

Anyway, though, a parliamentary majority is in place in the Folketing to send it on its way to the UN, although some doubts were expressed by the defense spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, who worried that sending such a proposal to the UN was the quickest way to make sure it got stuck in bureaucracy and went nowhere.

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