“I came too far, I can’t give up.”

– Pirate in Captain Phillips

2015 Meredith Carly

By: Carly Meredith

It’s starting to feel like I’ve been here forever. I am not saying that the time feels long. In fact, the days have flown by. It’s just that I’ve absorbed so much knowledge and experienced so much change in such a short period of time that seems impossible that only two months have passed since I arrived in Colorado

I have become so engrossed in my work that the weeks are passing in the blink of an eye. I have been  extensively researching piracy’s kidnap for ransom model and, more specifically, the “forgotten hostages”  that it claims as its victims; those whose governments and ship-owners have refused to pay the ransoms that stand in the way of their release. The days, months, and even years pass as the hostages gradually lose faith in ever being rescued, while the pirates desperately cling to the hope that someone will eventually fork up the sums they have demanded.

The most famous incident of kidnap for ransom by pirates is the case of Captain Phillips, who was held hostage following the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama back in 2009. Fortunately, the U.S. navy was able to step in and successfully rescue their Captain.

His ordeal lasted 4 days.

Now, imagine the 26 crew-members of the Naham 3; hijacked on March 26, 2012, they have remained hostages since that day.

Today marks their 1200th day in captivity.

Their ordeal isn’t over. Our work has just begun. If and when they are released, the world will have changed, their jobs will have been replaced, their economic situation will have worsened dramatically, on top of the physical and mental repercussions that they and their families will have endured.

This world can indeed be a cruel place, but Colorado serves as a constant reminder of the tremendous amount of beauty that it also contains.

I have completely immersed myself in the “Boulder culture”. Known for its peculiar ways, Boulder County is characterized by its hippie vibe and outdoor lifestyle. As a result, I have become an inspired yogi, a lover of organic produce and an avid hiker.

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Keeping busy with all of these new activities has made the transition to Colorado rather seamless, though there have been a few mishaps along the way –

Like the time the hike to Diamond Lake became a hike into Diamond Lake. Wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, we hadn’t anticipated the mounds of snow and ice that we would encounter along the way. When we finally made it to our destination, it appeared as though the lake was surrounded by firm, snow-covered ground; that’s until I fell through the snow and into the glacial water.

And, despite my usual aversion to cats, I’ve befriended a cute grey one. Leaving the house in a rush one morning, I found out the hard way that he’d left me a dead mouse offering right by my front door. If he’d only known that if there’s one thing I dislike more than cats, it’s definitely mice.

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But, if there’s one place I love, it’s definitely Colorado. If you ever make your way to Colorado, you should know that when you say “sorry” to someone, they won’t say sorry back like Canadians tend to do. Instead, they will kindly tell you “you’re fine” or “you’re okay”.

They’re right. I am okay. More than okay.

Ahoy, Mateys!

2015 Meredith Carly

 By: Carly Meredith

       Knowing that my 24th birthday would be celebrated just hours after my arrival in Colorado and far  from all the people I knew, my mother made an effort to add thoughtful elements to my going-away/early  birthday party. Our kitchen ended up looking very similar to what one would find if they were  to attend  the birthday party of a 6-year-old child. The tablecloth featured a cartoon depiction of pirates,  complete  with the skull head and words such as “arr!” and “ahoy” printed across it.  The serving jugs  were adorned  with eye patches and the cupcakes equally decorated to reflect the pirate theme. The point I am making here has nothing to do with my mother’s talent for throwing themed parties. Rather, it is to show how pirates have been depicted so as to ignite the romantic imagination. Our images of pirates include men with eye patches, pegged legs, and parrots perched on their shoulders. We think of pirates as adventurous and daring seafarers; people from the distant past who braved the harsh waters in search of the infamous “X” that marks the spot…

        It would be untruthful for me to say that modern day pirates lack the brave and  daring  qualities historically associated with them, because they are both of these things  in the boldest  sense. Pop culture has also bestowed on pirates a certain heroic persona.  And, despite the  barbaric and violent nature of pirate attacks, this quality is one that the  pirates of today continue  to lay claim to. Pirates are not heroes, but their motives are  complex. Some pirates have claimed  they are simply protecting their internal waters  from the disastrous effects of illegal fishing, while  others say their criminal activity  allows them to provide necessities for their families whose  survival would otherwise be  threatened. I do believe that modern day piracy grew in part out of  these concerns;  extreme poverty and lack of job opportunity made piracy an attractive option for  many  young men. However, while these justifications for hijacking ships are still cited by many  pirates, piracy has since developed into a multi-model business enterprise.

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       The players, targets and locations are always evolving in an effort to secure additional profits, just like any other commercial activity. Incidents of piracy occur in internal and international waters alike. Seafarers traveling in commercial vessels, dhows, local fishing vessels, cruise ships and trawlers are all potential victims. While piracy used to occur mainly off the cost of Somalia, it has now extended its reach across East and West Africa as well as through South East Asia. The buccaneers can be seeking commercial goods, personal property, knowledge or hostages for ransom. Pirates are violent, unpredictable, and innovative. My image of piracy has been completely revolutionized and hopefully yours will be too; there is nothing mythical about them.

       Before I left for Colorado, so many people would ask me: “What does Colorado have to do with piracy?” Well, I’m happy to say I finally have an answer. The impact of piracy is so vast and so widespread in terms of its effects on seafarers and international transit that it qualifies as a global problem that requires a global response. Ocean’s Beyond Piracy may be operating out of the small town of Broomfield, Colorado, far from pirate-infested waters, but it has recognized the devastating potential of pirate activity and the urgent need to respond to it both on location and all away across the world.

Piracy, Universal Jurisdiction, and Domestic Law in the United States

Andrew Higdon, One Earth Future Foundation. Broomfield, Colorado, USA.

2013 Andrew Hidgon 100x150On November 7, 2008 the Bahamian flagged cargo ship CEC Future was attacked by Somali pirates on the high seas in the Gulf of Aden. The attackers, armed with AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades, fired shots and boarded the ship. The ship and her crew (eleven Russians, one Georgian and one Estonian) were released a month later when the Dutch ship owners paid a $1.7 million USD ransom. In order to negotiate with the outside world, the pirates employed Ali Muhammad Ali who acted as a facilitator and interpreter onboard the ship.  Ali made $16 500 USD from his cut of the ransom, and negotiated an additional $75 000 USD from the ship owners for coordinating the release – all without leaving Somali territorial waters for any significant length of time.

In addition to being a pirate negotiator, Ali also served as the Director General of the Ministry of Education of Somaliland – a fact that neatly conveys at the scale of the problems facing Somalia. US prosecutors used his position to lure him into the US by inviting him to a fake education conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Upon arrival he was immediately arrested and charged under US piracy and hostage taking laws. How could the US claim jurisdiction over a non-national who committed a crime in another country against a ship sailed and owned by foreign nationals?

Under international law, states must have jurisdiction over the person and the offence in order to affect a legitimate prosecution. In the case of piracy, nations rely on customary international law and the UN Convention on the law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) to ground their jurisdiction. Unique among crimes, piracy has long been treated as an offense that any nation can prosecute. Unlike other theories of jurisdiction (such as “the territoriality principle” which gives states jurisdiction over events that take place within their territory,  or “the nationality principle” with gives states jurisdiction over actions committed by a their nationals) piracy is a crime that requires no nexus for a state to properly assert jurisdiction. Basically, any state that finds a pirate on the high seas can prosecute him. Traditionally, this unique jurisdictional aspect of piracy has been viewed as a consequence of the fact that pirates committed their crimes on the high seas, outside of anyone’s jurisdiction, and against the international community at large.

But Ali hadn’t operated on the high seas; he had helped facilitate piracy from Somali territory. The prosecutors charged Ali under 18 U.S.C. § 1651 – the US law that prohibits piracy – which states that individuals commit an offence where they commit piracy as defined by international law. This meant that the court had to examine the provisions of UNCLOS. Despite a long history of academics and law makers articulating the belief that piracy was something that could only occur on the high seas, the court took the opposite view. Brown J. ruled that since the sub article criminalizing the facilitation of piracy did not explicitly mention a high seas requirement (while other articles did) this indicated that no high seas requirement existed. While the position is defensible, it does suggest a challenge to the accepted order of jurisdiction.

It is highly unusual for a state to claim jurisdiction over the actions of a foreign national who committed a crime within the territory of his own nation, and where there is no other nexus with the prosecuting state. This is predicated on the understanding in international law that states will not interfere with the internal affairs of others. With this ruling, the US appears to be signalling its willingness to do so in certain situations. Perhaps the court decided as it did because of the fact that in Somalia there is little chance that men like Ali will ever see a courtroom. It seems unlikely that they would have decided the same way in a case that concerned a more developed nation. In any event, it illustrates the seriousness with which US prosecutors regard international crime and their comfort with dealing with it domestically. It is something that I think we should watch carefully.

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