Italy has been examining the case of Italian oil tanker the “Enrica Lexie” – which will finally be allowed to leave the port of Kerala in the next few days – and the question of the two Italian marines arrested by the Indian authorities, within the broader context of the struggle against international piracy and the need to strengthen international law, possibly by implementing new rules.
Immunity principle applied to peacekeepers
On many occasions, including his mission to India, Minister Giulio Terzi has underscored that international law in matters of piracy needed to be reasserted in regard to all UN countries. In particular, the principle of free navigation must be safeguarded along with the “protection and recognition of state agents acting legitimately within the framework of a UN resolution and of ships waving their nation’s flag”. Moreover, at international level, the immunity of peacekeepers working within the framework of UN resolutions must be reasserted, along with “assertion of immunity and national jurisdiction as general and broadly recognized principles”.
Pirate boardings on the rise
After a drop in 2011, the number of pirate boardings in the Indian Ocean rose again in January and February of 2012, according to Vice President of the EU Commission Siim Kallas. Concern has deepened at European level, since 80% of world’s goods are transported by sea, and 40% of the transport companies are controlled by European firms.
The area off the coast of Somalia infested by pirates has been expanding since 2008, when the United Nations confirmed the serious situation in the Horn of Africa. International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and IMB statistics indicate the continuous spread of the threat toward the Seychelles and the southwest coasts of India. Last year the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) marked off a high risk zone stretching from the Somali coasts eastward to the 76th meridian and southward to the 16th parallel.
Common and binding rules of engagement
In Italy’s view, the struggle against piracy calls for rules of engagement that are as common and binding as possible in order to establish a truly reliable legal framework for those operating in the forefront: soldiers, private security guards, companies and governments. Italy’s proposal to its European partners, which seems to be gaining support, is to defend the principle of free navigation in international waters and the right of states participating in counter-piracy operations to have exclusive jurisdiction over whatever happens in the high seas involving the their troops. “Self-regulation is not a real option in this area, considering the legal and operational risks that go along with the bearing of arms on board ship, and the possible use of force”, stated Siim Kallas, speaking at a recent conference on piracy in Brussels sponsored by the European Presidency and Commission. “Establishing a common international approach, and limiting the dangerous “grey areas”, will help to counter piracy by reducing the risk to the crews, firms and states involves”, explained the Commissioner. A common set of rules would have the additional advantage of “establishing a line of communication between private security and military forces based on trust”, Kallas pointed out. The escalation of piracy has forced the EU to extend the counter-piracy mission Atalanta, which is now authorized to attack pirate positions even in Somali waters and off-shore. But the legal framework remains inadequate, particularly with the increased private use of military personnel on board ships that fear assault. The EU suggests taking advantage of the 90th session of the IMO Commission on Maritime Security scheduled for May in London to draft a new set of common rules.