April 23, 2009

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses both common misperceptions about and complexities relating to the burgeoning phenomenon of Somali piracy.

Among the misconceptions which Dr. Pham corrects is the “myth of the good pirate” defending Somali waters from illegal fishing and waste disposal, pointing out the environmental threat which the pirates’ criminal activities pose. He also tackles the persistent erroneous perception that the Islamic Courts Union clamped down on piracy, noting that the only instance where the militants actually acted against pirates was when the latter hijacked a boat belong to one of the largest donors to the Islamist cause.

Dr. Pham also tries to disentangle both the question of ransom payments and the issues surrounding the legal framework for prosecuting captured pirates, observing there were disadvantages to recourse to domestic United States jurisdiction (as is the case of Abdiwali Abdikadir Muse, the one surviving pirate from the gang of four who tried to take the MV Maersk Alabama) as well as significant questions about sustainably passing along the cases to be tried by third-party states like Kenya (as is the case with the eleven pirates captured last week by the French navy).

To read the full text of the article, “Pondering Somali Piracy,” click here.