Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Private guards kill Somali pirate, but jurisdiction unclear


In the first killing of its kind, private security contractors shot dead a Somali pirate in a clash that left two skiffs riddled with bullet holes, officials said on Wednesday.

The killing raises questions over who has jurisdiction over a growing army of armed guards on merchant ships flying flags from many nations.

There’s currently no regulation of private security on board ships, no guidelines about who is responsible in case of an attack, and no industrywide standards, said piracy expert Roger Middleton from the British think tank Chatham House.

“There’s no guarantee of the quality of individuals you are going to get,” Middleton said. “If you’re a shipping company, that could be legally concerning. It’s also concerning to everyone if you have individuals with guns and not much oversight out on the seas.”

The exact circumstances of Tuesday’s shooting are unclear, but the EU Naval Force said guards were on board the Panama-flagged MV Almezaan when a pirate group approached it twice.

On the second approach, there was a shoot-out between the guards and the pirates.

An EU Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter that located the pirates. Seven pirates were found, including one who died from small-caliber gunshot wounds, indicating he had been shot by the detachment onboard the Almezaan, and not by the helicopter gunship, said Commander John Harbour, the EU Naval Force spokesman.

The pirates had two small skiffs and a larger ship — a whaler — believed to be a mothership for food and fuel.

“Once the skiffs and the whaler had been intercepted it was discovered that one of them contained a dead body that had sustained several small-caliber bullet impacts,” a statement from the Spanish Ministry of Defense said.

Legal experts said there is no consensus on who is responsible for investigating the incident, and there are several possibilities: Panama, whose flag the Almezaan flies; the United Arab Emirates, where the ship’s owners are based or the nation which the security contractors come from, which has not yet been made public.

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