General News of Thursday, 29 November 2012

Source: Kojo Smith/Paa Kwesi

Exposed: Argentine Frigate Libertad is not a military vessel

Full-fledged investigations conducted by these reporters have found evidence that claims by Argentine authorities that the seized Libertad Frigate by Ghana was a Navy ship are palpable false and a grand scheme to outsmart the Ghanaian government.

The Argentine authorities had argued that the seizure of the vessel violates international laws and treaties- the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 of which Ghana is a signatory.

The Frigate Libertad has been sitting at the Port of Tema, Ghana, for almost two months- a situation which has sparked diplomatic row between the two countries.

The report, which has been corroborated by some high profile Argentine sources, suggests that the entrapped vessel was commissioned by former President Fernando De La Rua to undertake special duties, which include “increasing the bonds of friendship with the countries”.

However, the mission of the frigate states that "no" assignment involves "the status of a diplomatic mission under the terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961" will not be extended "to the ship or its crew privileges and immunities."

Investigations also revealed that the frigate at the centre of this controversy had been registered under the international maritime organisation bearing an identification number IMO 6125398 as a commercial vessel contrary to claims by the Argentine authorities that it is a military vessel.

This means, once the Frigate Libertad is not a Navy ship, the immunity granted by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 does not cover it.

Another intriguing report has it that sections of the Argentinean people are furious about the issue and have chastised its government for not being proactive.

Media discussions have often urged authorities to adopt draconian steps for the Ghanaian authorities to release the vessel.

The impasse between the two countries reached its crescendo on Monday when an alleged Argentine group hacked the official website of Ghana’s Ministry of Justice and Attorney General.

Deep rooted sources in Argentina have denied reports that Argentina has nothing to do with the hacking of the Justice Ministry’s website.

The group, Hackers Patrióticos de Argentina, said their action was as a result of government's refusal to release the impounded vessel.

Against that backdrop, the hackers warned to unleash "hell" on Ghana by attacking other government websites, including banks, stock exchanges and some mining companies.

Ghana prevented an Argentine ship from leaving its shores a few months ago after a local court ruled in favour of a financial fund backed by an American billionaire.

The fund says it is owed $370m (£233m) by the Argentine government as a result of its debt default a decade ago.

It is seeking $20m in return for the release of the ship, a three-masted training vessel.

Alicia Castro’s Pre-Judicial Comments

Pending a ruling on the impounded ship litigation which will be considered on Thursday and Friday at the Hamburg Court which deals with the UN Sea of the Law litigations, high profile persons in the Argentine government are already claiming victory in the case, quoting a supposed declaration by the International Maritime Organisation that the Frigate is a military vessel and, therefore, is immune under the Vienna Convention of 1961.

Alicia Castro, Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK on Wednesday reportedly told the media that “The notification rules out the statements that had affirmed the vessel had a number of identification IMO, so it was defined as a services' ship”.

According to Ambassador Castro, the IMO number 6125398 has not been designated to the war vessel and not other ships.

Ms Castro who also represents Argentina at the IMO said “it was disappointing that some Argentine lawmakers and certain media outlets have been releasing false information that could harm Argentina’s position vis-à-vis the ‘vulture funds’ avidity contrary to national interests”.

However, the decision by Ms Castro to pre-empt the decision that will be arrived at between Thursday and Friday at the Hamburg Court has been described by some analysts as a deliberate attempt to sway the court’s decision in favour of Argentina.

It has also been established that the IMO does not have jurisdiction in this matter.

“IMO is the United Nations' specialized agency responsible for safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.”

Apparently Ms Castro failed to do her research before exploding in the media.

Assuming without admitting that the IMO was an authority on this controversy, should it not be the IMO announcing to the world its position on the matter rather than Ms Castro’s obvious communist inferior tactics to prejudice the outcome of the case.