Cmdr. Brian Whitaker, a judge advocate assigned to Navy Reserve Commander Navy Europe-Navy Africa-Sixth Fleet, joined with sailors and marines from around the world in Pemba, Mozambique in support of exercise Cutlass Express 2019, Jan. 28-Feb 6. This exercise focused on working with and training navies and coast guards from various East African countries to help them increase their capabilities and expertise. The portion of the exercise centered in Pemba, Mozambique included individuals from Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, France, Portugal, and the U.S.
The first several days focused on classroom instruction on the Law of the Sea, evidence collection, questioning of suspects, and use of various communications devices. Personnel from the partner nations also took turns practicing tactics, techniques and procedures to prepare for at-sea boardings which would happen during the second half of the exercise.
Once the classroom portion was complete, Whitaker and his Mozambican Navy counterpart, Lt. Cmdr. Charifo Sabadine, set sail aboard the French Patrol Ship Le Malin (P-701) which, along with the Mauritius Coast Guard Corvette MCGS Barracuda, served as the target vessels for the exercise. The JAGs and other observers aboard Le Malin watched and graded the Mozambique Marines as they conducted mock visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) scenarios. The Marines conducting the mock boardings questioned personnel pretending to be human smugglers and hostages, seized evidence, and practiced reporting their findings to the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) at the nearby Mozambican Navy base. The Mozambican JAG and Maritime Police then practiced retrieving the evidence from the VBSS teams and MOC using proper evidence handling and chain of custody techniques.
The last day of the exercise, the JAGs and Maritime Police participated in a legal “deep dive” with the operators from the different partner nations to discuss the results of the VBSS scenarios and to compare legal frameworks in the different nations to learn how to best apply the lessons learned to successfully prosecute criminals captured in real-world actions.