Thursday, April 15, 2010

President Obama's Pirate Executive Order

So I had it on good authority (my dad - who is a maritime attorney) yesterday that Obama signed an Executive Order stating that it is illegal to acquiesce to the ransom demands of pirates. After a bit of searching (it wasn't even in the Federal Register yet!), I found the text on a maritime blog here but it is also available in a nice printable format here. Basically it doesn't come out and say that paying ransom is illegal but it could easily be interpreted that way.

It seems the Executive Order is aimed at Somalia militants and anyone assisting them, as pointed out in this AP article. That makes sense but it seems like it could ensnare anyone paying ransom to the pirates since it could be construed as "financial assistance" although I think that would be a bit of a stretch. Getting mugged is not the same as giving to charity.

There is definitely some concern in the shipping industry and shipping companies are being told to consult with the US Treasury Dept's Office of Foreign Asset Control before paying any ransom. That viewpoint was found here.

The weird thing is that this brings a new issue to light. What is the best course of action legally? Killing pirates before they take your crew hostage or paying the ransom and dealing with the legal recourse? What is the best course of action morally?  Engaging in a firefight with Somali pirates (people left with no other choice in life but piracy) which could kill people on both sides or continue to fund acts of piracy and perpetuate the problem?

Hard to say...

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