The first instalment of a four part NY Times series, The Outlaw Ocean, by Ian Urbina was published yesterday. The first instalment, Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship, follows the activities of one particular ship, including an incident where two stowaways were forced overboard and left adrift on a makeshift raft while the ship was at sea off West Africa. From the NYT: “The Outlaw Ocean series was a deep collaboration, with many parts of the newsroom working with Ian Urbina on a quest to reveal lawlessness on the high seas. The hope for the project was to take readers inside that lawlessness, using video, photography, mapping and design tied closely together.”
Category Archives: News
Security Council Negotiations Regarding EU Call for Use of Force Against Smugglers Ongoing; Russia Warns Against Repeating “Abuse” of 2011 UNSC Resolution
The Security Council Report reports that “[t]he negotiations on the EU draft aimed at tackling the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean were still ongoing at press time between some Council members and the Libyan authorities. (For at least one permanent member the consent of the Tobruk/al-Bayda-based government seems to be indispensable for the adoption of the resolution.) In the past, it has been difficult to get agreement on resolutions authorising the interception of vessels, whether in the context of the implementation of sanctions or counter-piracy measures. Some Council members feel strongly about not contravening the principle of freedom of navigation codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As such, they have tended to focus their discussions in the past on such issues as the procedures to authorise interdiction, whether the consent of the flag state is required and the maritime zones where the interdiction is authorised to happen. In the informal interactive dialogue with Mogherini, some Council members inquired about the potential impact that requesting consent from Libya could have on the political process. The UK is the penholder on Libya.”
Reuters and Interfax reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said any resolution would have to describe “in the most minute detail the mandate of [an EU military] mission under [UN Charter] Chapter 7.” “‘The mandate of such an operation will have to be spelled out to the last detail because we do not want the ambiguity, which became a source of flagrant violations of the known resolution on Libya adopted in 2011, to repeat itself.’ … Lavrov said discussions in the Security Council on the new resolution against human traffickers were on hold as the EU was in talks with the internationally-recognized Libyan authorities sitting in Tobruk to work out necessary details. ‘As we have been told, European Union representatives are holding consultations with the lawful Libyan authorities recognized by the UN, these are the authorities seated in Tobruk, where the Chamber of Deputies and the government are operating’.”
WikiLeaks Releases Classified Documents Describing EU Plans For Military Strikes Against Libyan Migrant Smugglers
WikiLeaks has released two documents which describe the EU plans for possible military attacks on boats used by migrant smugglers in Libya:
“EU plan for military intervention against ‘refugee boats’ in Libya and the Mediterranean
Today, WikiLeaks is releasing two classified EU documents, outlining the planned military intervention against boats travelling from Libya to Italy. The more significant of the two documents was written by the combined military defence chiefs of the EU member states. The plan was formally approved by representatives from all 28 countries on 18 May 2015.
Importantly, one of the documents acknowledges that ‘the political End State [of the military intervention] is not clearly defined’ and recommends that the European Commission issue further guidance.
The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. The EU member states’ military chiefs advice is that there is a need to:
‘[draw] on the full range of surveillance, intelligence and information capabilities available to MS [member states] and Partners, and supported by Brussels (inter alia EEAS [European External Action Service] Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity – SIAC)’.
The plan also acknowledges the possibility of EU military use of force against groups such as ISIL ‘within the Libyan sovereign area’:
‘the threat to the force should be acknowledged, especially during activities such as boarding and when operating on land or in proximity to an unsecured coastline, or during interaction with non-seaworthy vessels. The potential presence of hostile forces, extremists or terrorists such as Da’esh [ISIL] should also be taken into consideration’.
The documents mark a departure from previous EU military strategy in its overt targeting of civilian infrastructure in Libya. Numerous EU countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated in NATO-led air strikes on Libya in 2011.
Human rights organisations have called on the EU not to put the lives of refugees and migrants at risk. The plan acknowledges that the EU risks negative publicity ‘should loss of life be attributed, correctly or incorrectly, to action or inaction by the EU force’. To manage this reputational risk, the documents recommend ‘an EU information strategy from the outset’ in order to ‘facilitate expectation management’. They also acknowledge the ‘need to calibrate military activity’ particularly within Libyan waters or ashore ‘in order to avoid destabilising the political process by causing collateral damage, disrupting legitimate economic activity or creating a perception of having chosen sides’.
Boats transporting people from Libya are the main means for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa to reach safety in Europe. Since the destruction of the Libyan government in 2011 there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of refugees travelling to Europe from Libya. In 2014 more than 170,000 people are estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya. In 2014, this made up 60 per cent of the entire irregular migration into the EU.”
WikiLeaks description of Document 1 -“Military Advice on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”” (also here):
“Classified EU plan, approved by EU member states defence chiefs, for a year long (at least) military operation against Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure, including the destruction of docked boats and operations within Libya’s territorial boundaries. The document is significant. It sets out the intent of EU defence chiefs: the EU will deploy military force against civilian infrastructure in Libya to stop refugee flows. Given the previous attacks on Libya by several EU NATO members and Libya’s proven oil reserves, the plan may lead to other military involvement in Libya. Formally, the document is approved Military Advice from the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on a “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”.
WikiLeaks description of Document 2 – “PMG Recommendations on the draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean” (also here):
“This is the document of recommendations from the Politico-Military Group (PMG) and Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM), who work with the support of the General Secretariat of the Council in the Council of the European Union, to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”. On 5th May 2015 the PSC discussed a possible EU military CSPD operation to disrupt human trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean region, including seizure or destruction of shipping vessels, based on a Crisis Management Concept (CMC).”
20 May – Informal Meeting between Members of UN Security Council and EU Political and Security Committee
From “What’s In Blue”: On 20 May, “members of the Security Council will hold an informal meeting with members of the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC). Since this is an informal meeting, it will not be held in the Security Council chamber and is not on the official programme of work of the Council. The meeting was requested by the EU and will be hosted by Lithuania, the current president of the Council, at the premises of the EU Delegation to the UN. The mutually agreed agenda for the meeting includes EU-UN peacekeeping cooperation in Africa, Libya and Ukraine.”
Among the topics that will be discussed is the proposed EU military operation in Libya:
“Libya/Migrant Smuggling – On this … issue, Council members are also expected to discuss with the members of the EU PSC the details of the EU military operation (EU NAVFOR Med) the EU decided to establish on 18 May to break the business model of the smuggling of migrants. Briefing the Council on 11 May, Mogherini presented proposals for the EU strategy to tackle the flow of migrants towards Europe. As part of this strategy, Mogherini discussed the plans for an EU military operation that would be authorised under Chapter VII to inspect, seize and dispose of vessels when there are grounds to believe that they are participating in the smuggling of migrants. Negotiations are ongoing among EU members of the Council (France, Lithuania, Spain and the UK) and China, Russia and the US on a draft resolution to authorise the EU operation. Council members are likely to be interested in the details that the EU PSC ambassadors can provide on this proposed operation, and what they are seeking from the Council, including on the appropriateness of this response to tackle this phenomenon, the protections foreseen in accordance with international refugee law, the issues associated with consent from the Libyan authorities, the geographical scope of the resolution, and consent by the flag states regarding interdictions.”
From the European Council web site: “In a joint session, foreign and defence ministers will take stock of action to tackle migration issues. They will also discuss efforts to capture and destroy the vessels of human traffickers before they are used. In addition, ministers will debate the strategic review, an ongoing analysis of the EU’s security environment, and discuss security challenges in the EU’s neighbourhood. They will also prepare the security and defence part of the June European Council.”
Two German naval ships, the Hessen and the Berlin, have been participating in Mediterranean rescue operations since 5 May and have reportedly destroyed five migrant boats (four inflatable and one wooden) after rescue operations were completed and migrants removed from the boats. The boats are destroyed because they might pose a navigational hazard to other vessels and might also be mistaken for a boat in distress. (Wir müssen die Boote zerstören, weil sie auf dem offenen Meer ein Schifffahrtshindernis für andere Boote darstellen. Zum anderen könnte es sein, dass wir ein leeres Boot aus der Luft irrtümlich als ein in Seenot befindliches Boot wahrnehmen und hinfahren, um es zu retten. Das kann wertvolle Zeit kosten, die uns bei der Rettung von besetzten Booten dann verloren geht.)
As I have noted before, there are situations such as these where the destruction of a migrant boat may be perfectly legal and appropriate. Assuming reasonable measures can be taken to avoid or minimize environmental damage, the destruction in international waters of an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel would seem to be legal.