Lieutenant Commander William Dwyer, Office of Legal Counsel wrote:
Military officers and legal experts from 22 countries across Africa, the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, France, the United Kingdom and the United States (U.S. Africa Command, respective service components, the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of State) shared legal strategies to countering illicit maritime activity during U.S. Africa Command’s 2nd Africa Military Legal Conference, held in Balaclava, Mauritius in the Indian Ocean from May 2-4, 2011.
Colonel Jon Lightner, Legal Counsel for U.S. Africa Command, along with his Legal Engagements Division, led by Colonel Jane Ellen Bagwell, coordinated the event. The keynote speaker was Commodore Neil Brown of the Royal Navy, who is currently an Oxford Fellow.
The conference objectives were to emphasize the Rule of Law in promoting maritime stability and security; identify and discuss legal and operational processes (detection, monitoring, boarding, search, seizure, evidence collection, and prosecution) used by African partner nations and the international community in countering illicit maritime activities; receive briefings from African partner nation attendees in order to improve overall understanding of partner nation legal systems and approaches to countering trans-national maritime crime; increase the awareness of the Office of Legal Counsel-Legal Engagements Division to assist in future engagements with partner nations and form the basis for future Mil-to-Mil exchanges; and provide information to the attendees on the U.S. legal systems and processes to contend with illicit maritime activities.
Throughout the three-day conference, participants heard from a variety of speakers, representing military, regional, and international organizations, who shared their approaches to addressing illicit maritime activity and the respective legal constructs in place to curb it. Numerous presentations were made by African nations on panels from West Africa (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gambia), East Africa (Kenya and Seychelles) and islands (Comoros, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome & Principe.) The panels provided overviews of country specific legal systems and how they are combating illicit maritime crimes (piracy, IUU (Illegal Unregulated Unreported) fishing, illegal drug trafficking, migrant smuggling) and answered questions from the attendees. NATO and EU activity were also briefed along with specific subject matter expert briefs. Jennifer Landsidle, an attorney with the Department of State, provided two in-depth presentations about current events in piracy prosecution and the preservation of evidence in C-P cases. Her presentations resulted in robust dialogue among the participants.
Interagency cooperation was one of the main objectives of the conference. After listening to several presentations on specific interagency cooperation efforts in Africa and the U.S. Maritime Operational Threat Response Plan (MOTR) process, participants had the opportunity to discuss their interagency processes in more depth during small group breakout sessions.
Additional US presentations were provided on topics such as Africa Partnership Station (APS), training opportunities for African military officers in the U.S., the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Model Maritime Code.
The event was a great success and showcased the growing partnerships among African maritime nations. The conference fostered a better understanding of maritime legal issues and helped build the legal capacity of the participating nations. The conference culminated in a table-top exercise to discuss maritime enforcement within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and potential prosecution under host nation law.
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