YACHT QUEST: DID FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR VIOLATE THE TRUCE UNDER THE LAW OF NATIONS?
If “Piracy and Armed Robbery on the High Seas” and the connsequential murder of innocent seafarers can be couched in terms of war, especially when Somalia is choatically devolving into civil war with civilian refugees fleeing into Kenya then I concluded that the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the international coalition of naval forces operating under The Law of Nations short of initiating a full scale war on Somalia is a complete failure to suppress piracy and armed robbery on the high seas. The next step must be war on Somalia to circumvent the imminent risk of destabilizing the region, though it could be said that initiating a war on Somalia is itself an act the further destablizes the region. It may very well be. But like that old saying, it’s going to get worse before it gets better, kind of like a tornado or a hurricane coming at you.
According to the ECOTERRA International Bulletin, Status of Seized Vessels and Crews in Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean, February 23, 2011, “at least 50 foreign vessels plus two barges are kept in Somali hands against the will of their owners, while at least 815 hostages or captives – including a South-African yachting couple – suffer to be released” are being held hostage by the Somali pirates. Under the Geneva Convention this hostages are prisoners of war.
I cite excerpts from Vattel’s, The Law of Nations (1797), concerning a truce during war, and current news events as noted below to conclude that the FBI Hostage Negotiator violated the Rules of War under The Law of Nations when he wrongly concluded that the two Somali pirate leaders aboard the USS Sterett (DDG 104) were not serious about the negotiation and decided to throw the two Somali pirate leaders into the brig. [CORRECTED FEB. 28, 2011]
The conduct of the the two Somali pirate leaders acted under a flag of truce, by voluntarily board the USS Sterett in order to negotiated the release of the four Christian missionaries if one is to consider the The Law of Nations and the Rules of War as applicable to Somali pirates. If not, The Law of Nations on piracy and armed robbery on the high seas apply before the murders took place. However, after the FBI Hostage Negotiator’s breach of the truce for negotiations, whether under the Rules of War or under maritime law for crimes on the high seas, the FBI Negotiator will most likely be held liable for wrongful death in the presumeably forthcoming civil lawsuit over the murders of the four Chirstian missionaries.
The FBI’s behavior from a psychological perspective will be an interesting case study in the arrogance and the sense of superiority of United States federal law enforcement officers unfamiliar with social customs of foreign nations. I am an American merchant seaman. I have no degrees in psychology, sociology, or psychiatry to express any form of opinions with credibillity but I do have commons sense to know that you must have at least a minimum understanding of the cultural and social customs of any adversary you face in international negotiations. Acting from a state of ignorance of these factors will lead to situations FUBAR. One can actually classify this attempted FBI negotiation as “Operation FUBAR.”
It is my opinion that because of the FBI Hostage Negotiator’s incompetence he has caused the escalation in the Somali pirates rearming themselves with more weapons, more Somali pirates on the “front lines” with a more embolden drive to kill future hostages if or when the U.S. Navy gets in their way for more ransom payments. I believe that that the FBI Negotiator’s bungling of the negotiation is the threshold event that will transform the international patrols under the Djibouti Code of Conduct into a naval and ground forces being committed to an invasion of Somalia to terminate the piracy problem with extreme prejudice.
Maybe now the United Nations will consider a new maritime treaty recognizing the human right to armed self-defence for merchant vessels and their crew (not just permitting armed contract security).
Monsieur De Vattel, The Law of Nations, or Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns. London. Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row (1797). (Foonotes omitted).
BOOK III—OF WAR (HTML Version)
CHAP. XVI—OF VARIOUS CONVENTIONS MADE DURING THE COURSE OF THE WAR.
§ 233. Truce and suspension of arms. (p. 404)
WAR would become too cruel and destructive, were all intercourse between enemies absolutely broken off. According to the observation of Grotius, there still subsists a friendly intercourse in war, as Virgil and Tacitus have expressed it. The occurrences and events of war lay enemies under the necessity of entering into various conventions. As we have already treated in general of the observance of faith between enemies, it is unnecessary for us in this place to prove the obligation of faithfully acting up to those conventions made in war: it therefore only remains to explain the nature of them. Sometimes it is agreed to suspend hostilities for a certain time; and, if this convention be made but for a very short period, or only regards some particular place, it is called a cessation or suspension of arms. Such are those conventions made for the purpose of burying the dead after an assault or a battle, and for a parley, or a conference between the generals of the hostile armies. If the agreement be for a more considerable length of time, and especially if general, it is more particularly distinguished by the appellation of a truce. Many people use both expressions indiscriminately.
§ 242. Violation of the truce. (p. 407)
Now, if one of the contracting parties, or any person by his order, or even with his simple consent, commits any act contrary to the truce, it is an injury to the other contracting party: the truce is dissolved; and the injured party is entitled immediately to take up arms, not only for the purpose of renewing the operations of the war, but also of avenging the recent injury offered to him.
§ 245 Effects of a truce, what is allowed, or not, during its continuance. 1st Rule—Each party mad do at home what they have a right to do in time of peace. (p. 408)
The general effect of a truce is that every act of hostility shall absolutely cease. And, in order to obviate all dispute respecting the acts which may be termed hostile, the general rule is, that, during the truce, each party may, within his own territories, and in the places where he is master, do whatever he would have a right to do in time of profound peace. Thus, a truce does not deprive a sovereign of the liberty of levying soldiers, assembling an army in his own dominions, marching troops within the country, and even calling in auxiliaries, or repairing the fortifications of a town which is not actually besieged. As he has a right to do all these things in time of peace, the truce does not tie up his hands. Can it be supposed that, by such a compact, he meant to debar himself from executing things which the continuation of hostilities could not prevent him from doing?
§ 246. 2d Rule: — Not to take advantage of the truce in doing what hostilities would have prevented. (p. 409)
But to take advantage of the cessation of arms in order to execute without danger certain things which are prejudicial to the enemy, and which could not have been safety undertaken during the continuance of hostilities, is circumventing and deceiving the enemy with whom the compact has been made; it is a breach of the truce. By this second general rule we may solve several particular cases.
§ 251. 3d Rule: — Nothing to be attempted in contested places, but every thing to be left as it was. (p. 411).
Now, as a truce suspends hostilities without putting an end to the war, every thing must, during the continuance of the truce, be suffered to remain in its existing state, in all places of which the possession is contested: nor is it lawful, in such places, to attempt any thing to the prejudice of the enemy. This is a third general rule.
CURRENT NEWS EVENTS
GaroweOnline.com, 48 people killed in Somalia, February 25, 2011. (The independent news Web site GaroweOnline.com is the online sister publication of Radio Garowe, a community radio station based in Garowe, the State capital of Puntland, a self-governing region in northern Somalia.):
More than 48 people, mainly civilians have been killed and over 100 others injured in clashes that rocked in central and southern Somalia’s capital Mogadishu within the last 24 hours.
The fighting continues into the second day on Friday after the clashes erupted again in Waradhumale in Galgudud region, central Somalia, between the pro-government moderate Islamic group Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and al Shabaab. Killed 25 people and injured 60 others.
. . .
Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have fled the town, crossing into neighbouring Kenya, according to United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
“Around 300 Somalis have crossed into Kenya over the past few days to escape the fighting, and we have received reports from them of many injuries,” said the agency.
The war-battered seaside capital [Mogadishu] has been the scene of deadly civil strife since the collapse of the country’s central government in 1991. Civilians bear the brunt of clashes between warring sides involved in armed struggle.
David Usborne, Did FBI compromise lives of American hostages?, The Independent, Friday, February 25, 2011:
An FBI negotiator’s unwillingness to continue talking to two Somali pirate leaders about the release of four Americans being held aboard a yacht may have led to a shootout that killed the hostages, it was reported yesterday.
Eric Schmitt, Seizing of Pirate Commanders Is Questioned, New York Times, February, 23,, 2011:
WASHINGTON — When the two pirates boarded the U.S.S. Sterett off the coast of Somalia on Monday, American officials thought they were headed for a breakthrough in the four-day standoff with a gang that had seized four Americans vacationing on their 58-foot yacht.
But an F.B.I. hostage-rescue negotiator aboard the Sterett came to believe the two Somalis were not serious. So the Americans took them into custody and told the pirates back on the yacht to send over someone they could do business with.
What happened next is sharply contested and raises questions about the crucial decision to detain the pirate leaders.
. . .
The two pirates were brought on board “in a good-faith attempt to negotiate the safe release of the hostages” a military official said. Once the Americans came to believe they were not serious, the official said, the pirate commander and his ally were detained and their fellow pirates were notified.
“The pirates who were brought aboard the ship never communicated back to their pirate allies on the Quest,” said the official, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the F.B.I. investigation.
. . .
Somali pirate specialists say the pirates once had an informal code that required members to treat one another well and not harm hostages, valuable commodities who draw ransom payments on average of $4 million. But while Somali pirates might once have been a tight-knit group motivated by money, not murder, pirates and pirate experts say the lure of big money was attracting less-disciplined young Somalis hungry to share in the new riches.
Somali pirates interviewed Wednesday said something must have gone very wrong in the case of the Quest, since killing hostages is bad for business and is almost certain to draw a more aggressive response from countries like the United States. “We don’t kill hostages,” said a pirate in Hobyo who gave his middle name as Hassan. “We have many hostages here, and we treat them well. But the pirates might have been angered by the Americans.”
The person in contact with pirate cells said a gun fight had broken out below deck on the Quest, likely over money or the hostages’ fate. American officials theorize this may have been the case. Five minutes after the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterett, and small arms fire erupted, 15 Navy SEAL commandos stormed the yacht. The hostages were dead or dying. American officials said it was unclear whether they had been executed or killed in the pirates’ cross-fire. Other pirate hostages have died in captivity or during rescue attempts, but there are few, if any, cases of pirates intentionally killing hostages.
The commandos shot and killed one pirate and stabbed another. Two other pirates were found dead, apparently killed by their comrades, and 13 surrendered to the Americans.
Associated Press, Pirates add ammo, men to ships after 4 US deaths, February 23, 2011 (Associated Press Writer Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.):
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Pirates in Somalia said Wednesday they are ferrying ammunition and men to the 30 hijacked vessels still under their control, and they threatened to kill more captives following the violent end to a hostage standoff that left four Americans dead.
We had plans to either take the hostages to the inland mountains or to move onto other hijacked ships because we knew that the U.S. Navy was serious about carrying out a rescue operation,” Hassan said. “The hostages pleaded with us not to harm them or take them to dangerous places. They cried when we captured them … and asked us to release them because they were too old and couldn’t endure captivity.”
The killings came less than a week after a Somali pirate was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That hijacking ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship’s American captain.
Pirates reacted angrily to the sentencing and have since vowed that they will kill hostages before being captured during military raids and being sent to face trial.
Pirates once were believed to be disgruntled and financially motivated Somali fishermen angry that international trawlers were illegally fishing Somalia’s waters. Now criminal gangs dominate the piracy trade, and have begun systematically torturing hostages, including locking them in freezers.
“What we’re seeing is that because of the business model the pirates have adopted is so lucrative that you’re now getting organized criminal gangs involved as opposed to fishermen who just decided to have a go at piracy,” said Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy, spokesman for the European Union’s anti-piracy force.
“Criminal gangs are more violent than your average fisherman who’s turned to piracy,” O’Kennedy said.
A pirate in Somalia who gave his name as Adowe Osman Ali said fellow “soldiers” had ferried the reinforcements to hijacked ships in their hands on Wednesday in a bid to deter more hostage rescue attempts. He said after Tuesday’s incident, captains of hijacked ships have been ordered to tell navies not to approach or hostages would be killed.
“In the past, 20 or so soldiers used to guard every ship but now the numbers are ranging between 60 and 70 soldiers,” said Ali, a pirate in the coastal village of Gara’ad.
“We are more alert than anytime before,” he said. “In the past, we allowed the foreign navies to approach us but now we have warned them to not get nearer to us.”
Piracy has plagued the shipping industry off East Africa for years, but the violence used during the attacks — and the money demanded in ransoms — have increased in recent months. Pirates now hold some 30 ships and more than 660 hostages.
The average ransom now paid to pirates is in the $5 million range, a huge leap from only three or four years ago when it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House. One ransom paid last year was just shy of $10 million.
“It’s really gone up, really an enormous amount,” Middleton said. “If you think you can get a $9.5 million ransom, I suppose the logic is that you try any means possible to get there, and if that means scaring some crews and owners more, I guess that’s what you do,” he said, alluding to the recent reports of torture.
Industry experts warned Wednesday it’s too soon to say whether the Americans’ deaths will require a wholesale change in the way the shipping industry operates along with the militaries patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
It’s still not known publicly [what] prompted a pirate to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at a Navy war ship, and it’s unclear whether there was an internal pirate fight or if there had been a hostage escape attempt.
“We don’t know what happened yesterday so we’re not going to make any knee-jerk decisions,” O’Kennedy said. “But our policy remains the same. Nothing is off the table. All options are open to us as a military force.”
Pirates blamed the deaths of the American hostages on the U.S. Navy, saying the pirates felt under attack.
“We warned them before that if we are attacked, there would be only dead bodies,” said a man who gave his name as Abdirahman Abdullahi Qabowsade. “We have been killed and arrested illegally before, so we can’t bear with such attacks anymore. We will respond to any future attacks aggressively.”