Piracy is of Common Concern to Africans, Global Community
Legal experts from Africa, the United States, and Europe shared ideas and national strategies to countering piracy during the second day of U.S. Africa Command&#39;s Military Legal Conference, May 3, 2011. <br /> <br />Piracy, a growing concern to
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 3: BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Liberian Coast Guard Seaman Samuel Zarbay makes a comment about interagency processes for maritime law in a small breakout session of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 3: BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Liberian Coast Guard Seaman Samuel Zarbay makes a comment about interagency processes for maritime law in a small breakout session of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 3: BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Liberian Coast Guard Seaman Samuel Zarbay makes a comment about interagency processes for maritime law in a small breakout session of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
BALACLAVA, Mauritius - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's African Military Legal Conference, discuss their nations' interagency processes for maritime law in small breakout groups, May 3, 2011. The conference brought together 50 lawyers and legal experts from 20 African nations, along with representatives from the United States and Europe to discuss maritime crime in Africa. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
Legal experts from Africa, the United States, and Europe shared ideas and national strategies to countering piracy during the second day of U.S. Africa Command's Military Legal Conference, May 3, 2011.

Piracy, a growing concern to African nations as well as the global community, is one of the most well-recognized universal crimes, said Jennifer Landsidle, attorney-advisor for the U.S. Department of State. It is also one of the most daunting challenges facing maritime law enforcement.

Landsidle explained that while all nations have the authority to take action against pirates under the UN Law of the Sea Convention 1982, not all of them have the political will, resources, or trained staff to do so.

"To varying degrees, many states have not demonstrated a sustained political will to criminalize piracy under their national law, implement their SUA (UN Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation) obligations, and criminalize SUA offenses, and this is despite repeated calls by the UN Security Council that this is an important thing to do," Landsidle said.

The greatest challenge is prison capacity. More states might be willing to prosecute if they didn't have the responsibility of incarceration, which is a long-term expense and especially difficult for nations that lack resources and space to hold prisoners.

Throughout the day, participants heard from a variety of speakers, representing military and interagency organizations, who shared their approaches to addressing maritime issues.

Brian Williams, with the Global Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) Center, provided an overview on the MOTR process, which coordinates U.S. government response to threats against the United States and in the maritime domain. It was created in February 2010 to address the challenge of coordinating the efforts of approximately 14 government agencies so that they were working in collaboration, rather than as separate units.

Similar types of coordination centers are being used in Africa to synchronize response activities between interagency groups and regional partners. Participants had the opportunity to discuss their interagency processes in more depth during small breakout sessions.

The second day of the conference wrapped up with a special presentation by Liberian 1st Lieutenant Alexander Selmah, a legal officer for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). His presentation, varying from the maritime theme of the conference, focused on the AFL's progress in creating a military justice system within Liberia's military structure.

Following a 14-year civil war, the AFL was demobilized and more than 100,000 combatants were disarmed. Its military has been completely rebuilt via the U.S. State Department's Security Sector Reform (SSR) program, which began in 2006. Selmah, part of the new AFL, talked about the challenges in building a military legal center. He said that because the AFL is fairly new, it will take time to complete the center and train enough legal officers and clerks on the principles of law.

Emphasizing the importance of a military justice system, Selmah explained that one of its primary responsibilities is to assist commanders in maintaining good order and discipline within the AFL and prevent the types of problems and corruption that was prevalent in the old Liberian military.

Selmah's colleague, Liberian Seaman Samuel Zarbay, added that the conference was especially beneficial to him, as part of the newly-established Liberian Coast Guard, because of the opportunities to collaborate with regional partners on piracy and other maritime issues.

"The conference is geared towards a holistic and global unity in fighting against piracy. There's a parable that says in times of peace, prepare for war. Even though some of us are not experienced with piracy, this conference benefits us in helping us find some solution and precautionary measures in dealing with the piracy issue," Zarbay said.

The conference wraps up Wednesday, May 4, with a panel of legal representatives from the island nations of Comoros, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome & Principe. Also included on the agenda are overviews of maritime programs such as Africa Partnership Station, African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, and the Coast Guard Model Maritime Code.

See related article: African Legal Experts from 20 Nations Collaborate on Maritime Law Initiatives.




PARTNERSHIPS OPERATIONS READINESS