General News of 2012-10-13

Argentine mission to seek release of seized ship

A high-level Argentine mission to persuade Ghana to release an Argentine warship seized 11 days ago in a dispute with creditors was expected to depart on Friday, officials have said.

Deputy Defense Minister Alfredo Forti and Deputy Foreign Minister Eduardo Zain have been tapped to lead the mission to Accra where the frigate Libertad was being held with its crew.

They will make "a joint representation to the highest authorities of the government of Ghana," a government source said. The delegation was expected to leave Argentina on Friday."

More than 200 officers, non-commissioned officers and midshipmen on an annual training voyage have been stranded in the port of Tema near Accra since the vessel was seized October 2.

The ship's seizure was ordered by a Ghanaian court in response to a suit by Creditors NML Capital over Argentina's 2002 bond default.

Judge Richard Adjei Frimpong of the Commercial Court in Accra on Thursday rejected a motion by Argentina's lawyers seeking the ship's release.

"This decision violates international norms which protect the immunity to which this ship is entitled as a warship of the Argentine Republic," Argentina's defense ministry said Thursday.

"This move, which puts Ghana's international responsibility at stake, adds a political dimension to a legal matter that endangers bilateral relations," the ministry said.

According to local media, NML is seeking some $300 million and that Ghana has set bail for the ship's release at $20 million.

Fernando Morales, vice president of the Argentine Navy League, a non-governmental organization, said the Maritime Rights Convention "clearly states that military vessels cannot be seized or detained under any circumstances."

Ghana endorsed the convention in 1983, and Argentina did so ten years later, Morales added.

Pablo Giancaterino, an attorney, told Radio 10 that legally speaking, the frigate must be released because the military is protected by diplomatic immunity.

"I agree that it is a political problem," he said.