Lessons learned from the arrest of G-Dona1 pirates by the Togolese forces

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Team RETEX G-Dona 1 in Togo

The capacity of the components of the Yaoundé Architecture (YA), primarily the States, to bring a stop to the most criminal actions, is part of the priorities of all actors and partners.

Reminder of events: a small oil tanker, the G Dona 1, was seized by pirates during the night of 11 to 12 May 2019. The surveillance of the Maritime Operation Centre (MOC) and the rapid response of Togolese actors, meant that 8 pirates were apprehended, without any injuries or harm to persons.

The pirates, on board a pirogue, attempted to turn the Togolese flagged vessel G-DONA 1 off its course. According to the Ministry for Security and Civil Protection, the operations room of the Togolese Navy had observed an abnormal movement of the boat. They asked the vessel about the change of direction. However, they did not receive any reassuring response. In the absence of confirmation or indeed response from the vessel, the operations room came to the conclusion that an attack was planned. It was in this context that a speedboat supported by one, then two, patrol boats was able to board the vessel. The 8 pirates were handed over to the Maritime Gendarmerie, then brought in front of the State Prosecutor.

This was a historical moment, being the first time that this has happened in living memory. Togo effectuated an operation, termed a “brute force recovery” by specialists, in this case a complex and high risk action involving boarding and taking over a vessel under the control of potentially dangerous criminals, without shedding any blood. Togolese sailors also demonstrated their ability to use force at sea, in a legal and rigorous context. Further, the cases’ progress towards the courts highlights continuity in public action.

As the case is ongoing, we will not publish any details. However there is no doubt that the lessons learned, from both operational and judiciary perspectives, will be of interest to the entire YA community, as well as to partners working to support their efforts. The fact finding mission lead by Captain Major Boniface Konan, acting Director of the CRESMAO, backed up by a multidisciplinary team of 6 managers and experts from YA, with the technical and financial support of the UNODC and the GoGIN project, was particularly fruitful, and enabled the preparation of an important report. The UNODC and the GoGIN project remain attentive to future developments in aid of those who are working to bring those apprehended to court.

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