UN envoy proposes special courts to try suspected pirates

Special Adviser Jack Lang

25 January 2011 – The United Nations special envoy on maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia today proposed the setting up of two special courts inside the country and one in Tanzania to try suspected pirates, saying the problem in the Indian Ocean was getting out of hand and required “strong and decisive action.”

Jack Lang, the Special Adviser on Legal Issues related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, said the international community should work towards “Somaliazation” of responses to piracy by helping local authorities in the regions of Puntland and Somaliland to enhance their judicial and prison capacities in order to prosecute and jail captured pirates.

In his report to the Security Council, Mr. Lang also proposed the establishment, for a transitional period, of a Somali “extraterritorial jurisdiction court’ in the northern Tanzania town of Arusha to deal with piracy cases.

He told the Council, as well as a news conference following the meeting, that the raiders who seize ships and sailors and demand huge ransoms are becoming “masters of the Indian Ocean” with their increasingly sophisticated means of carrying out the criminal actions.

The cost of the measures he has proposed is estimated at about $25 million, a “relatively modest” expense compared to the estimated $7 billion which he said was the cost of piracy.

The international component of the cost to train judges, prosecutors, lawyers, prison guards is “essential,” Mr. Lang said, adding that the UN, the African Union, the European Union and other organizations should contribute.

He also proposed strengthening the forensic element of gathering evidence and the imposition of sanctions against the leaders of piracy gangs.

“We cannot be satisfied with the status quo,” he said, noting the “extreme gravity” of the situation which he said requires “solutions of extreme urgency.”

Mr. Lang said his report is the result of “extensive consultations with 50 States, international organizations, private companies and research institutes.”

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Stephen Mathias, said the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international legal instruments, including the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, may also be relevant in the fight against piracy.

In the case of Somalia, legal measures were complemented by a number of Security Council resolutions, Mr. Mathias said.

He cautioned States that “apprehension, detention, prosecution and imprisonment must all take place in accordance with a State’s international human rights and other obligations.”

In November, the Security Council renewed for another 12 months the authorizations granted to States and regional organizations cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to fight piracy off the country’s coast.

As set out in previous resolutions, this includes the authorization for States and regional organizations to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” – such as deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, as well as seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms and related equipment used for piracy.

Also in November, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a meeting of the Council that the growing problem of piracy off the Somali coast demands more than just military efforts, and called for simultaneous action on three fronts – deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development – to combat the scourge.


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