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Arms control off Libya: the Jacoubet relays the Chief Master L'Her

The aviso L'Her on a weapons control mission (credit: Marine Nationale / Cols Bleus)
The First Master L'Her on a weapons control mission (credit: Marine Nationale / Cols Bleus)

(B2) The French high seas patrol vessel “ Jacoubet Ship Sign (F-794) arrived in the EUNAVFOR Med / Sophia operation to fight against trafficking in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya (human beings, weapons). He relays his alter ego “ Chief Petty Officer L'Her » (F-792) engaged since September 12 (1). This French presence at sea level is new. So far the French contribution to the operation has been rather limited. It consisted more of human resources (officers at HQ in Rome), intelligence (ISR) and an aircraft (Falcon 50 type) made available a few days a month (often with dual missions, under national or European auspices) ( 2).

The change in focus of the operation decided in June by the 28 to allow the European operation to carry out checks on ships off the coast of Libya, within the framework of the arms embargo enacted by the UN in 2011 and the fight against Daesh (3), changed the situation. France is now contributing with maritime resources to this operation as part of what is called the control of arms flows to Daesh (CFAD). The port of Marseilles has even been offered (4) to serve as a port of diversion in the event of flagrante delicto, to divert the vessel concerned, the crew and the weapons seized, with an indirect consequence: French justice may be seized of such facts and the public prosecutor to prosecute. The United Kingdom has also offered one more vessel to perform this task (5). We find, here, the Franco-British couple, in action in Libya in 2011, which was one of the main drivers of this new task of EUNAVFOR Med.

This new phase passes by a gradual increase in power – we explain to the French Navy. " Arms control in particular requires a significant amount of intelligence gathering. Controlling all the ships that are in the Mediterranean would indeed be both impossible in terms of means and quite useless. It is necessary to operate wisely on 'suspicious' boats. What is called at the technical level characterize flows ". Notice Chief Petty Officer L'Her has already carried out two inspection operations on ships suspected of engaging in such trafficking. However, the flag surveys carried out did not allow " for the moment, to detect irregularities which would have authorized a complete search of the buildings ". The information collected " have been transmitted to the partners and agencies concerned by the control over the flow of arms to Daesh in Libya ».

Even if the few searches carried out by the French and British ships today have not made it possible to detect any flagrante delicto, this presence - and the communication that surrounds it - has a certain deterrent effect. The traffickers, knowing that they are being watched, could modify their modus operandi. Which, in a way, contributes to the objective of disrupting traffic.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: the Jacoubet had been sent to the Egypt air crash: Egyptian, French and Greek forces deployed in the area and also took part in the European operation to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean (read: In the Gulf, pirates are having a blast).

(1) Both are ships of the Estienne d'Orves class, type A69

(2) Since June 2015, maritime reconnaissance aircraft have carried out around twenty missions, thus accumulating more than 120 hours monitoring maritime traffic in the area of ​​action of Operation Sofia.

(3) United Nations Security Council Resolution 2292.

(4) Paris has had its ears pulled a little to offer this port. But the Italians who already ensure all the treatment of asylum seekers and the prosecution of human traffickers refused to contribute more to an action requested mainly by the French and the British.

(5) It may be noted that London, in departure "mode" on Brexit, has stepped up its action under the European flag where, a few years ago, it refused to give back to the European Union.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).