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James Kraska & Brian Wilson: Fighting Pirates — The Pen and the Sword, Part II

In our article, “Fighting Pirates: The Pen and the Sword,” which appeared in the winter “Dear Mr. President” issue of World Policy Journal, we asserted that greater collaboration, increased prosecutorial capacity, and the creation of a network among concerned states were the most promising approaches to address the spike in piracy off the Somali coast. In the past two months, all three have occurred, and there has been an accompanying sharp drop in the number of successful attacks. While ships are still vulnerable, the political environment has improved. In December 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted two resolutions, numbers 1846 and 1851, to encourage prosecutions, support enhanced partnering, and authorize land-based military operations. In quick order, a “Contact Group” was established to address maritime piracy, meeting for the first time in January 2009 with representatives from 24 nations. To increase accountability and the rule of law, Kenya has signed a bilateral accord with the United Kingdom to prosecute suspected pirates, and Kenya and the United States could sign a similar deal by the end of January, 2009. Two coalition military commands, the European Union’s Operation Atalanta and U.S. Fifth Fleet’s Combined Task Force 151, were launched to expand capacity and focus anti-piracy efforts. Moreover, Japan, Spain, and South Korea are poised to deploy naval forces to the region. This collective action is having a positive effect: in January 2009, only 2 of 16 attacks by Somali pirates resulted in a successful boarding. In 2008, about a third (or 42 of the 111 attacks) were successful, with 815 mariners taken hostage. The threat of attack so concerned the shipping community that some companies altered their routes; others avoided the area completely. As a result, the Suez Canal experienced a $35 million drop in revenues for 2008 and tuna catches in the Indian Ocean, a $6 billion industry, fell by 30 percent. One other factor has played in favor of fewer attacks—it is monsoon season in the Indian Ocean. High seas are restricting the pirates to the shores, reducing the number roving throughout the Arabian Sea. Collaboration is ongoing and it is working. The European Commission hosted a piracy seminar in Brussels in January 2009 which included representatives from the maritime sector, governments, and military officials. Even more partnerships are in development: a piracy and drug trafficking conference, hosted by Yemen in collaboration with the United Kingdom, is slated for February. The legal component of repression has been turned in the right direction over the past two months. Holding pirates accountable has been a tremendous challenge in anti-piracy operations. Many states either don’t have laws on their books enabling prosecutions or don’t desire to assert jurisdiction, convene a trial, and detain pirates. Thus, even though piracy is a universal crime allowing any state to prosecute, as a practical matter, piracy trials infrequently occur. Several times in 2008, after hijackings were thwarted by warships, pirates were simply released, losing only their weapons.

Jodi Liss: The Woes of Timothy Geithner

This may sound peculiar coming from someone in a job with no security and that pays about a fifth of what he earns, but I feel sorry for future Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his tax problems over his past employment with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Actually, I would more surprised if he hadn’t had problems. I, too, have worked for international organizations (in my case, the UN, UNDP, and UNICEF) and I too know what it is like to try to deal with the arcane rules that seem to be tailor-made for each individual short–term hire at these places. At the UN, and apparently at similar places, what you pay in taxes depends on not only your nationality but on the kind of contract you have and its terms for the individual position. It is so convoluted that one of the first decisions you make at the start is to find a good accountant. No matter how clever you think you are, you immediately discover that you are but a babe in the woods.

Jonathan Power: Obama's Inheritance and the Gitmo Problem

The courtrooms of America sometimes take us by surprise. Last week, Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, the son of the former Liberian president and notorious warlord, Charles Taylor, was sentenced in a Miami court to 97 years in prison for torture. It was the first time that an American court had applied a law passed in 1994 allowing the prosecution of citizens who commit torture overseas. (Taylor was born in the United States, but then moved to Liberia to join his father.)

Is there now one law in America for those who commit torture overseas and those who commit it at home with the authority of government? Perhaps not for much longer. In a recent television interview, President-elect Barack Obama said that his designate for attorney general, Eric Holder, would investigate whether some senior members of the Bush administration should be prosecuted for their part in torture, although he said that his belief was that “what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future.” Also, last week, Obama said that he had given his new appointees to top intelligence positions a clear charge to restore the nation’s stance on human rights. “Under my administration the United States does not torture.” Obama should also have reminded his audience that it was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan that the U.S. helped push for the United Nations to agree to a legally binding treaty against torture, and then propelled Congress to rapidly ratify it. (It is this treaty, mind you, that provides the legal underpinning for the prosecution of Taylor.)

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