Ban lays out options for prosecuting pirates operating off Somali coast

Somali piracy suspects transported to trial in Nairobi, Kenya

20 August 2010 – An international tribunal set up by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter authorizing the use of force is among several options to prosecute pirates operating off the Somali coast laid out by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a new report made public today.

Piracy attacks have escalated worldwide in recent years owing almost entirely to increasing numbers of incidents off of the coast of Somalia since the overthrow of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, he wrote.

In 2008, 111 vessels were attacked, and that number nearly doubled to 217 in 2009.

“Bearing in mind that each incident involves a number of individuals, it is clear that there are large numbers of persons involved,” the Secretary-General said in the report, which will be discussed by the Council on Wednesday.

Although the number of incidents continues to be high, increased naval patrols off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Aden have helped reduce the success rate of these attacks.

In spite of this positive development, as of May, 450 people continue to be held hostage on ships captured by pirates off the Somali coast.

One of the seven options put forward by Mr. Ban in the new report – enhancing UN assistance to bolster regional States’ capacities to prosecute and imprison those behind acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea – has already been going forward.

In June, Kenya opened a new high-security courtroom, built by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in the port town of Mombasa, which is intended to increase trial efficiency in the system and provide a secure, modern environment suitable for piracy cases.

Other options listed in the new report include creating a Somali court in the territory of another State in the region and setting up an international tribunal agreed upon by regional country and the UN.

The Secretary-General stressed that arrangements for imprisonment are just as important as the prosecution of pirates, given the large numbers of suspects apprehended by countries’ navies.

Acknowledging the difficult current economic climate, he underlined the need for political and financial commitment from the international community to not only create a new judicial body, but also to sustain it.

“A new judicial mechanism to address piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia would be addressing a different situation to that addressed by the existing United Nations and United Nations-assisted tribunals,” Mr. Ban pointed out. “Such a mechanism would face ongoing criminal activity and potentially a large caseload, with no predictable completion date.”

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