HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën: fast, heavily armed, but helpless?
As Captain Richard Phillips returned home after his dramatic rescue from Somali pirates by U.S. Navy SeALs, the pirates seem not to have taken President Obama's vow "to root out the pirates infesting African shipping lanes" any too seriously.
In fact, earlier today, the daring sea-faring bandits seized yet another ship, a Belgian dredger, and took its crew of 10 hostage.
Ah, but there was good news, too -- sort of. In a separate incident, the Dutch frigate, HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën, on anti-piracy patrol for NATO answered a distress call from a tanker, intervened in an attack on that vessel, chased the pirates back to their "mother ship," a Yemeni fishing dhow on which the pirates were holding 20 fishermen as hostages, and captured the bad guys.
Trouble is, the Dutch then let the bad guys go! Why? Because, as a NATO naval representative told the media, "NATO does not have any detainment policy."
You really can't make this stuff up. A related reason the pirates could not be arrested, the NATO spokesperson explained, is that neither the pirates nor the victimized ships nor the hostage fishermen were Dutch nationals! (And you thought piracy was an international crime!) The French are trying some pirates who attacked a French ship. The captured pirate from the group who attacked captain Phillip's ship is being brought to justice in the U.S. But for the most part, pirates who are seized by the international armada of naval vessels patrolling the region's waters have nothing to worry about:
The vast majority of detained pirates are set free to wreak havoc again because of legal barriers to prosecuting them. It can be difficult or impossible for prosecutors to assemble witnesses scattered across the globe and find translators. Many countries are wary of hauling in pirates for trial for fear of being saddled with them after they serve their prison terms.
Note to President Obama: the place to start in your campaign "o root out the pirates" is by getting NATO to adopt "a detention policy," don't you think?
What's your opinion of this Keystone Kops NATO naval exercise? Post a comment.