Obama wields emergency powers against piracy
U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order on April 13 to freeze the assets of anyone who contributes to acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia or otherwise helps exacerbate the civil conflict in the East African nation.
Obama said the deteriorating security situation in Somalia poses a national security and foreign policy threat to the United States that requires him to invoke national emergency powers.
The order targets parties or individuals who directly or indirectly contribute to violence within Somalia, inhibit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalia or supply weapons in violation of the U.N. arms embargo. Many pirate attacks have been against U.S. and international vessels bringing humanitarian relief supplies to Somalia and adjacent nations.
The order also authorizes the Treasury Department to block the assets of 'any person determined to have materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material, logistical or technical support, or goods or services in support of' those destabilizing the country. Obama said he determined that piracy or armed robbery at sea threatened peace, security and stability in Somalia.
Under the order, money and property in the United States or under U.S. control that belongs to individuals or parties engaged in prohibited actions could not be transferred, paid, exported or withdrawn.
The U.S. government's action leaves open the question of whether ransoms paid to pirates by ship owners to recover their vessels and crews would fall under the definition of providing material assistance to pirates or antigovernment forces.