Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dutch Free Yemeni Captives From Pirates, Then Release Pirates

Via NYTimes -

Dutch commandos freed 20 Yemeni hostages on Saturday and briefly detained seven pirates who had forced the Yemenis to join them in attacking vessels in the Gulf of Aden, NATO officials said.

The Dutch forces, operating under a NATO antipiracy mission, then released the pirates, a NATO commander said, because NATO has no “detainment policy.”

Meanwhile, gunmen from Somalia seized a Belgian-registered ship and its 10 crew members farther south in the Indian Ocean. A pirate spokesman said the vessel, the Pompei, would be taken to the coast.

Somali sea gangs have captured dozens of ships, taken hundreds of sailors prisoner and made off with millions of dollars in ransoms despite the presence of foreign warships in waters off the Horn of Africa.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexandre Fernandes of NATO said the 20 Yemeni fishermen were rescued after a Dutch Navy frigate on a NATO patrol responded to an assault on a Greek-owned tanker. The tanker had been attacked by pirates firing assault rifles and grenades.

Commandos from the Dutch ship chased the pirates, who were on a small skiff, back to their mother ship, a hijacked Yemeni fishing dhow.

“We have freed the hostages, we have freed the dhow and we have seized the weapons,” Commander Fernandes said, speaking on board the Portuguese warship Corte-Real. “The pirates did not fight, and no gunfire was exchanged.” The Corte-Real is also on a NATO antipiracy mission.

Commander Fernandes said the hostages had been for more than a week. The commandos briefly detained and questioned the seven gunmen, he said, but had no legal power to arrest them.

“NATO does not have a detainment policy,” he said. “The warship must follow its national law. They can only arrest them if the pirates are from the Netherlands, the victims are from the Netherlands, or if they are in Netherlands waters.”


This is a perfect example which illustrates the need for an international agreement on what actions can be taken with pirates captured by the protection force in international waters.

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