2 June 2008
Security Council
SC/9344

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5902nd Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS ACTS OF PIRACY, ARMED ROBBERY OFF SOMALIA’S COAST,


AUTHORIZES FOR SIX MONTHS ‘ALL NECESSARY MEANS’ TO REPRESS SUCH ACTS


Resolution 1816 (2008) Adopted Unanimously with Somalia’s Consent;

Measures Do Not Affect Rights, Obligations under Law of Sea Convention


Condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia, the Security Council this afternoon authorized a series of decisive measures to combat those crimes.


By the terms of resolution 1816 (2008), which was unanimously adopted today, the Council decided that the States cooperating with the country’s transitional Government would be allowed, for a period of six months, to enter the territorial waters of Somalia and use “all necessary means” to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with relevant provisions of international law.


The text was adopted with consent of Somalia, which lacks the capacity to interdict pirates or patrol and secure its territorial waters, following a surge in attacks on ships in the waters off the country’s coast, including hijackings of vessels operated by the World Food Programme and numerous commercial vessels -- all of which posed a threat “to the prompt, safe and effective delivery of food aid and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia”, and a grave danger to vessels, crews, passengers and cargo.


Affirming that the authorization provided in the resolution applies only to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights and obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, nor be considered as establishing customary international law, the Council also requested cooperating States to ensure that anti-piracy actions they undertake do not deny or impair the right of innocent passage to the ships of any third State.


While urging States, whose naval vessels and military aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace of the coast of Somalia to be vigilant, the Council encouraged States interested in the use of commercial routes off the coast of Somalia to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter attacks upon and hijacking of vessels, in cooperation with the country’s Government.  All States were urged to cooperate with each other, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and, as appropriate, regional organizations and render assistance to vessels threatened by or under attack by pirates.


Speaking prior to action on the draft, Indonesia’s representative emphasized the need for the draft to be consistent with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to avoid creating a basis for customary international law for the repression of piracy and armed robbery at sea.  Actions envisaged in the resolution should only apply to the territorial waters of Somalia, based upon that country’s prior consent.  The resolution addressed solely the specific situation off the coast of Somalia, as requested by the Government.


Speaking after the vote, Viet Nam’s representative said the resolution should not be interpreted as allowing any actions in the maritime areas other than Somalia’s or under conditions contrary to international law and the Law of the Sea Convention.


The representative of Libya said he had voted in favour of the draft on the understanding that the resolution related only to acts of piracy in the maritime areas under jurisdiction of Somalia.


South Africa’s representative said that it was necessary to be clear that it was the situation in Somalia that constituted a threat to international peace and security and not sea piracy in itself.  Furthermore, the resolution must respect the Law of the Sea Convention, which remained the basis for cooperation among States on the issue of piracy.  The Council should not lose focus on the larger situation in the country, most importantly the need to address the political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground.


China’s representative said that the Council’s actions should facilitate international assistance in combating piracy and avoid negative consequences.  Such assistance should be based on the wishes of the Government and be applied only to the territorial waters of Somalia.  It must comply with the Law of the Sea Convention and must not constitute conflict with existing international legislation.  The resolution adopted today responded to those requirements to the greatest extent possible.


The meeting was called to order at 3:15 p.m. and adjourned at 3:40 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Somalia.  It had before it a draft resolution (document S/2008/351) sponsored by Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States, which reads as follows:


The Security Council,


Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the situation in Somalia,


Gravely concerned by the threat that acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels pose to the prompt, safe and effective delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, the safety of commercial maritime routes and to international navigation,


Expressing its concerns at the quarterly reports from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 2005, which provide evidence of continuing piracy and armed robbery in particular in the waters off the coast of Somalia,


Affirming that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (“the Convention”), sets out the legal framework applicable to combating piracy and armed robbery, as well as other ocean activities,


Reaffirming the relevant provisions of international law with respect to the repression of piracy, including the Convention, and recalling that they provide guiding principles for cooperation to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, including but not limited to boarding, searching, and seizing vessels engaged in or suspected of engaging in acts of piracy, and to apprehending persons engaged in such acts with a view to such persons being prosecuted,


Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia,


Taking into account the crisis situation in Somalia, and the lack of capacity of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to interdict pirates or patrol and secure either the international sea lanes off the coast of Somalia or Somalia’s territorial waters,


Deploring the recent incidents of attacks upon and hijacking of vessels in the territorial waters and on the high seas off the coast of Somalia including attacks upon and hijackings of vessels operated by the World Food Programme and numerous commercial vessels and the serious adverse impact of these attacks on the prompt, safe and effective delivery of food aid and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia, and the grave dangers they pose to vessels, crews, passengers, and cargo,


Noting the letters to the Secretary-General from the Secretary-General of the IMO dated 5 July 2007 and 18 September 2007 regarding the piracy problems off the coast of Somalia and the IMO Assembly resolution A.1002 (25), which strongly urged Governments to increase their efforts to prevent and repress, within the provisions of international law, acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels irrespective of where such acts occur, and recalling the joint communiqué of the IMO and the World Food Programme of 10 July 2007,


Taking note of the Secretary-General’s letter of 9 November 2007 to the President of the Security Council reporting that the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) needs and would welcome international assistance to address the problem,


Taking further note of the letter from the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations to the President of the Security Council dated 27 February 2008, conveying the consent of the TFG to the Security Council for urgent assistance in securing the territorial and international waters off the coast of Somalia for the safe conduct of shipping and navigation,


Determining that the incidents of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in the territorial waters of Somalia and the high seas off the coast of Somalia exacerbate the situation in Somalia which continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region,


Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,


“1.   Condemns and deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in territorial waters and the high seas off the coast of Somalia;


“2.   Urges States whose naval vessels and military aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Somalia to be vigilant to acts of piracy and armed robbery and, in this context, encourages, in particular, States interested in the use of commercial maritime routes off the coast of Somalia, to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea in cooperation with the TFG;


“3.   Urges all States to cooperate with each other, with the IMO and, as appropriate, with the relevant regional organizations in connection with, and share information about, acts of piracy and armed robbery in the territorial waters and on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, and to render assistance to vessels threatened by or under attack by pirates or armed robbers, in accordance with relevant international law;


“4.   Further urges States to work in cooperation with interested organizations, including the IMO, to ensure that vessels entitled to fly their flag receive appropriate guidance and training on avoidance, evasion, and defensive techniques and to avoid the area whenever possible;


“5.   Calls upon States and interested organizations, including the IMO, to provide technical assistance to Somalia and nearby coastal States upon their request to enhance the capacity of these States to ensure coastal and maritime security, including combating piracy and armed robbery off the Somali and nearby coastlines;


“6.   Affirms that the measures imposed by paragraph 5 of resolution 733 (1992) and further elaborated upon by paragraphs 1 and 2 of resolution 1425 (2002) do not apply to supplies of technical assistance to Somalia solely for the purposes set out in paragraph 5 above which have been exempted from those measures in accordance with the procedure set out in paragraphs 11 (b) and 12 of resolution 1772 (2007);


“7.   Decides that for a period of six months from the date of this resolution, States cooperating with the TFG in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, for which advance notification has been provided by the TFG to the Secretary General, may:


(a)   Enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purpose of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with such action permitted on the high seas with respect to piracy under relevant international law; and


(b)   Use, within the territorial waters of Somalia, in a manner consistent with action permitted on the high seas with respect to piracy under relevant international law, all necessary means to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery;


“8.   Requests that cooperating States take appropriate steps to ensure that the activities they undertake pursuant to the authorization in paragraph 7 do not have the practical effect of denying or impairing the right of innocent passage to the ships of any third State;


“9.   Affirms that the authorization provided in this resolution applies only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under the Convention, with respect to any other situation, and underscores in particular that it shall not be considered as establishing customary international law, and affirms further that this authorization has been provided only following receipt of the letter from the Permanent Representative of the Somalia Republic to the United Nations to the President of the Security Council dated 27 February 2008 (S/2008/XXX) conveying the consent of the TFG;


“10.  Calls upon States to coordinate their actions with other participating States taken pursuant to paragraphs 5 and 7 above;


“11.  Calls upon all States, and in particular flag, port and coastal States, States of the nationality of victims and perpetrators or piracy and armed robbery, and other States with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to cooperate in determining jurisdiction, and in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, consistent with applicable international law including international human rights law, and to render assistance by, among other actions, providing disposition and logistics assistance with respect to persons under their jurisdiction and control, such victims and witnesses and persons detained as a result of operations conducted under this resolution;


“12.  Requests States cooperating with the TFG to inform the Security Council within 3 months of the progress of actions undertaken in the exercise of the authority provided in paragraph 7 above;


“13.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council within 5 months of adoption of this resolution on the implementation of this resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery in territorial waters and the high seas off the coast of Somalia;


“14.  Requests the Secretary-General of the IMO to brief the Council on the basis of cases brought to his attention by the agreement of all affected coastal States, and duly taking into account the existing bilateral and regional cooperative arrangements, on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery;


“15.  Expresses its intention to review the situation and consider, as appropriate, renewing the authority provided in paragraph 7 above for additional periods upon the request of the TFG;


“16.  Decides to remain seized of the matter.”


Statements


Speaking prior to the vote, HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia) said that his country fully supported the request of Somalia -- as reflected in the Transitional Government’s letter to the President of the Council -- for international assistance in its efforts to address the acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia.  In drafting a positive response to Somalia’s request, Indonesia had been guided by the need for the draft to be consistent with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and would not envisage any modification of the existing carefully balanced law.  Also, the text should not become a basis of customary international law for the repression of piracy and armed robbery at sea.  Actions envisaged in the resolution shall only apply to the territorial waters of Somalia, based upon that country’s prior consent.  The draft resolution must address solely the specific situation off the coast of Somalia, as requested by the Government.


Like Somalia and most Members of the United Nations, Indonesia was a faithful party to the Law of the Sea Convention and had a legal obligation to preserve the rights, obligations and responsibilities of Member States derived from it.  Those had been carefully negotiated, in order to ensure, in a balanced manner, the interests of coastal and user States.  Thus, it was his duty to voice strong reservations if there were actions envisioned by the Council, or any other forum, that could lead to modification, rewriting or redefining the Convention.  Ample safeguards were needed.  He was pleased that those considerations had materialized in the formulation of operative paragraph 9, which stated that “the authorization provided in this resolution … shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under the Convention, … and … it shall not be considered as establishing customary international law.”  It was in the interests of all that existing laws and norms not be violated when taking steps against illegal or criminal acts.


Continued political instability in the country had led to the inability of its law enforcement to maintain stability and security, he continued.  That situation also extended to the waters off the coast of Somalia.  Thus, Somalia’s unique situation required an exceptional measure by the international community to deal with the problem of piracy and armed robbery against vessels.  In that regard, the request and consent from the Somali Government served as the legal basis for the Council to formulate appropriate responses within the parameter of international law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention.


Piracy and armed robbery at sea could affect the safety of international navigation, but the Council needed to exercise caution in trying to address such acts in other parts of the globe.  He was pleased that such caution was exercised in operative paragraph 14, which requested the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to brief the Council on the basis of cases brought to his attention by the agreement of all affected coastal States, and duly taking into account the existing bilateral and cooperative arrangement, on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery.  That caution undoubtedly reflected the Council’s commitment to uphold international law, in spirit and in letter.  The principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the Charter had to be espoused by the Council at all times.  In exercising its mandate in the maintenance of international peace and security, it was possible to do so without having to challenge the integrity of international law.  Those two objectives were mutually reinforcing and not exclusive.


As it stood now, the text had accommodated those two fundamental principles, he said.  Those were about consistency with the Law of the Sea Convention and the specific situation of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.  After all, the text, first and foremost, was about Somalia.  It was about how the Council, together with the international community, could assist Somalia to fight the crime.  The text would ensure that Somalia would be the beneficiary of common efforts.  His delegation was now ready to support the draft.


The Council then unanimously adopted resolution 1816 (2008).


After the vote, HOANG CHI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said his country was fully committed to fight against piracy under the provisions of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The resolution adopted should not be interpreted as allowing any actions taken in the maritime areas other than Somalia’s, or under conditions contrary to international law and the Law of the Sea Convention.


IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI ( Libya) said his delegation had voted in favour of the draft on the understanding that the resolution related only to acts of piracy in the maritime areas under jurisdiction of Somalia.


BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) welcomed the adoption of the text and said that in negotiating and agreeing on the resolution, his delegation had been guided by the fact that the text limited itself to the situation in Somalia.  It was necessary to be clear that it was the situation in Somalia that constituted a threat to international peace and security, and not piracy in itself.  Sea piracy was a symptom.  Furthermore, the resolution must respect the Law of the Sea Convention, which remained the basis for cooperation among States on the issue of piracy.  The Council should not lose focus on the larger situation in the country, most importantly the need to address the political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground.


He welcomed the adoption of resolution 1814 (2008) last month, which provided a signal to the people of Somalia that the international community was serious about assisting them in resolving their conflict.  As provided in 1814, the Council was willing to consider, at the appropriate time, a peacekeeping operation to take over from the African Union Mission in Somalia, once there was progress in the political process and improvement in the security situation on the ground.  He was pleased that the Council’s visit to Africa had begun with a discussion in Djibouti with key parties in Somalia.  He hoped the visit would provide impetus to the ongoing international efforts to resolve the conflict in Somalia.


LA YIFAN ( China) said that his country had always respected the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of countries and supported the national reconciliation process in Somalia, which was trying to achieve peace and stability after 17 years of conflict.  The Council’s visit to Africa had fully demonstrated the importance its members attached to the situation in Somalia.  The rise of piracy off the coast of that country constituted a great threat to its peace process and international efforts for humanitarian relief.   Somalia had asked for assistance in combating piracy, and the international community was widely supportive of that request.  The Council had authorized Member States to assist the Government in combating piracy, and China supported prompt adoption of the text.


The issue of piracy was closely related to the rights and obligations in the oceans, and the Council had to act with great prudence, he continued.  Its actions should facilitate international assistance in combating piracy and avoid negative consequences.  Such assistance should be based on the wishes of the Government and applied only to the territorial waters of Somalia, not expanding to other regions.  It must comply with the Law of the Sea Convention and must not constitute conflict with existing international legislation.  The resolution adopted today responded to those requirements to the greatest extent possible.  It was both positive and prudent, and China had voted in favour of the draft.


In the course of its application, various problems might come up and might require international cooperation, he added.  The piracy should not be seen as a stand-alone issue, but as an expression of the situation in the country.  The international community should focus on removing the root causes of the current situation in Somalia.   China was ready to join others in the continued effort to achieve peace and stability in that country.


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For information media • not an official record