WASHINGTON (CN) – A congressional subcommittee was told Thursday that the international response to piracy off Somalia remains deeply flawed. Ambassador Stephen Mull “There is a major flaw in the world response to piracy,” he said in reference to the catch and release that some countries, like the Netherlands, have done with pirates.

told the story of a pirate imprisoned on a ship who said his cell was more comfortable than his house, and asked if his family could join him. “People have been paying the ransoms,” he said. “Some see it as an acceptable business cost.”
     “It will fall to this subcommittee to ensure that appropriate actions are being taken to address the growing piracy problem,” said the chair, Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat. This sense of responsibility was challenged by the presence of only half the subcommittee members.
     Mull, once an Ambassador to Lithuania, said that getting an international agreement was imperative in successfully combating piracy.
          That’s what you’re supposed to do with fish, said Delahunt, not with pirates.
     Mull said the high publicity has helped a lot in keeping countries from continuing the catch and release policy.
     But the problem remains; there is incredible inconsistency in how countries deal with pirates. Some countries don’t want to invest the resources in prosecuting the pirates, others don’t have a legal system set up for it, and still other countries are concerned the home countries will persecute the pirate and that the pirate may have to seek asylum, explained Mull.
     The United States does have a system in place “thanks to narcotics,” said Mull. The United States is accustomed to dealing with criminals out at sea and of different nationality.
     The U.S. has also signed an agreement with Kenya to prosecute pirates there, where they traditionally get seven years in prison, as compared to a life sentence for piracy here.
     “Seven years in a Kenyan prison may be equivalent to a life term in the United States,” remarked Dana Rohrabacher, a republican from California.
     Other countries that do not have such an agreement are working out other ways to deal with piracy. In March in Copenhagen, 28 countries from around the world met to examine the discrepancies in how each deals with pirates. But it was not very successful. “Pooling 28 countries and trying to make them be more like us is always a problem,” said Mull.
     “Our European friends want to send lawyers in and think we can hug people and they’ll be nice to us. Well that’s not going to happen,” said Rohrabacher.
     Instead, Rohrabacher strongly advocated that ships use private security and specifically pointed to Blackwater, the same company responsible for the controversial 2007 Baghdad shootings, as a good solution.
     “To our European friends in the crowd or watching this on CSPAN, it should be noted that the French for example, who are admired by my friend from California, are probably the most aggressive in terms of militarily dealing with this issue,” said Delahunt.
     Other efforts have been to track and freeze pirate assets, but this has been relatively unsuccessful because most of their assets are briefcases full of bills from ransoms, explained Mull.
     Donald Payne, a Democrat from New Jersey, said the shipping companies don’t necessarily care enough about their crews to instill proper protections. “A crew is the easiest thing a ship can get,” he said. Crews are international, composed often of people from the third world. The Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight plans to meet on a regular basis to discuss piracy.

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