Human Cost of Piracy off Somalia Coast ‘Incalculable’, Full Range of Legal, Preventative Measures Needed to Thwart Attacks, Security Council Told

22 February 2012
SC/10551

Human Cost of Piracy off Somalia Coast ‘Incalculable’, Full Range of Legal, Preventative Measures Needed to Thwart Attacks, Security Council Told

22 February 2012
Security Council
SC/10551
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6719th Meeting (AM)

Human Cost of Piracy off Somalia Coast ‘Incalculable’, Full Range of Legal,

Preventative Measures Needed to Thwart Attacks, Security Council Told

 

UN Legal Counsel, Executive Director of UN Drug Office Brief,

As Council Takes up Secretary-General’s Report on Specialized Anti-Piracy Courts

Fuelled by more than $150 million in ransom payments last year, Somali-based pirates were extending their deadly reach farther out into the Indian Ocean, senior United Nations officials said today, as they urged the Security Council to consider a full range of legal, judicial and preventive measures to thwart their brazen attacks.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other States in the region, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel Patrician O’Brien said the human cost of piracy off the Somali coast was “incalculable”, with killings and widespread hostage-taking.  Although the numbers of incidents had declined in 2011, there were nevertheless 265 hostages being held at the end of the year.  Increasing levels of violence and the expanding geographical scope of the attacks were all extremely worrying.

She said that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had conducted detailed consultations with the relevant police, prosecution, judicial and prison authorities in the concerned regional States.  Indeed, a great deal was already being done to ensure the prosecution of piracy suspects.  A total of 20 States worldwide were prosecuting, or had prosecuted, a total of 1,063 piracy suspects since 2006.  Of that total, more than 900 of the suspects had been prosecuted in 11 States in the region.  Of those, five — Somalia, Seychelles, Kenya, Mauritius and the United Republic of Tanzania — were prosecuting piracy suspects with United Nations assistance, or were seriously considering doing so.

She said that those States and others in the region that conducted piracy prosecutions had taken on a heavy responsibility that entailed a commitment of national resources and security risks.  It was key that the international community both acknowledged that important prosecution role and matched their commitment with strong international support.  Indeed, if international assistance was maximized, therefore, up to 1,250 piracy suspects could be processed yearly in accordance with international standards.  The potential was for more suspects to be prosecuted per year in the five regional States than the total number of piracy suspects prosecuted globally since 2006, and at a cost that was “modest compared to that of any of the existing international or hybrid tribunals”, she explained.

As for the scope of the Secretary-General’s report, she recalled that the Council, in resolution 2015 (2011), had requested Somalia and other regional States that were willing to do so to establish specialized anti-piracy courts, or domestic courts.  The Council’s request did not expressly mention the possibility of a Somali specialized anti-piracy court sitting extraterritorially in the territory of another State, and the current report reviews a proposal for a national Somali court.  The term “specialized anti-piracy court”, was used in the report to refer to a court operating under national law, with international assistance, and with a focus on the prosecution of piracy cases.

Briefing the Council on the inter-agency efforts to address the complex issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UNODC, said pirates had netted about $170 million in ransom for hijacked vessels and crews last year, up from $110 million in 2010.  The average amount paid to pirates in 2011 was about $5 million, although $10 million had been paid for the release of one tanker.  He said that the ransom money from piracy was flowing into the legal financial system at an increasing rate.

Continuing, he said the money was also being reinvested into other criminal activities and that drugs, weapons and alcohol smuggling, as well as human trafficking, also benefitted from the proceeds.  Although UNODC was unaware of an ideological link between Al-Shabaab rebels and pirates, there was strong evidence of cooperation in furtherance of the aims of the two groups.  “Therefore, piracy is creating a clear threat to the stability of the region,” he said, noting that UNODC’s Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism was engaged in cooperation with other United Nations agencies and Member States within Working Group 5 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

He said that UNODC’s Counter-Piracy Programme was providing support to regional countries agreeing to undertake prosecutions.  The agency was also carrying out extensive training programmes for police, prosecutors, judges and prison personnel in Kenya, Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as within Somalia, when security allowed.  That programme, which had begun in 2001 with $500,000, would this year be implementing some $16 million worth of technical assistance programmes.  In addition, UNODC’s Piracy Prisoner Transfer Programme supported the transfer of convicted pirates back to Somalia to serve their sentences, while ensuring that prison conditions met international standards.  Overall, he said, the issue of piracy required a strong inter-agency approach that addressed not only law enforcement and judiciary aspects of the problem, but also its root causes, in Somalia itself, as well as in the world’s financial centres.

When Council members took the floor, the representative of the United Kingdom agreed that to “break the piracy business model” it was necessary to employ a comprehensive approach that tackled it directly and its root causes on land.  He noted that piracy would be one of the main topics of discussion tomorrow at the London conference on Somalia, which would be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron.  He said the Secretary-General’s report highlighted serious capacity constraints in Somalia, and prosecution by regional States had, therefore, been instrumental in counter-piracy efforts.

“We believe this continues to be the most effective way to prosecute pirates in the short term,” he said, adding that, while the United Kingdom supported, in principle, the report’s implementation proposals to increase capacity through specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia, continuing the broader exercise of building regional capacity remained essential.  He said that the threat of piracy, the effects of the famine and terrorism in Somalia were all symptoms of one central problem:  the breakdown of the Somali State.  Tackling piracy and its causes could not be separated from that fact, and the international community needed to address the on-land issues that fed criminality at sea, including through deterrence, security and the rule of law.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that, while his Government was interested in studying the root causes of piracy off the coast of Somalia, ambiguity remained in important aspects regarding measures to counter the threat, such as legal proceedings, detention, transport, and data collection.  He said he attached great importance to the strong judicial and law enforcement capacities of the countries of the region.

According to the Secretariat, if the international community continued to support current prosecution mechanisms over the next two years, the situation would turn around, but he did not see a basis for such optimism.  The resources of coastal States were limited, and even with intense aid, those States could not deal with the number of pirates, and that was illustrated by the data in the report.

He believed future additional measures were necessary for the prosecution of pirates, but mindful that the foundation of anti-piracy justice mechanisms was to be found in national bodies of the justice systems of the States of the region.  Given the limited financial capacity, it would be advisable now to concentrate efforts on establishing anti-piracy legal mechanisms with international participation in those countries that demonstrated “absolute readiness” to implement such measures.

Also speaking today were the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, as well as representatives of India, Morocco, United States, Colombia, China, Portugal, Guatemala, France, Pakistan, Germany, Azerbaijan and South Africa.

The meeting began at 10:45 a.m. and adjourned at 12:44 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other States in the region (document S/2012/50) submitted pursuant to resolution 2015 (2011), in which the Council decided to continue its consideration of the establishment of such courts with international support, in order to build regional capacity for prosecution of the crimes.

In the resolution, the Council requested the Secretary-General, in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to consult further with the States in the region on the kind of assistance needed, as well as the procedural arrangements required for transfer of apprehended pirates and evidence, the projected case capacity of such courts and their projected timeline and costs.  The Council also requested detailed proposals for the establishment of the courts.

Along with the Somali authorities, States consulted included Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and the United Republic of Tanzania — all of which are either prosecuting piracy cases with United Nations assistance or are engaged with UNODC to consider the possibility of doing so, the report States.

The Secretary-General states that the consultations demonstrate that a substantial amount of assistance is already being provided; the report includes a detailed description of the assistance being provided for each country.

According to the report, from 2006 to the present, Somalia, Kenya, Mauritius and the United Republic of Tanzania convicted, all together, 438 suspected pirates out of 627 held, although the convictions in Somalia were achieved in “Puntland” and “ Somaliland”, with most of those convicted in the latter territory subsequently released.

The Secretary-General projects that with further assistance, including the implementation of the included recommendations, in two years all the countries consulted could collectively conduct a maximum of 125 piracy prosecutions, involving up to 1,250 suspects, per year in accordance with international standards.  That would be greater than the total number of suspects prosecuted globally to date.

As a first step, he says, an assessment, with the assistance of the naval coalitions and other States active in naval operations, could be useful to help to determine the number of piracy incidents in which the suspects have been apprehended but released, and the reasons underlying the releases, in order to help determine the likely demand for prosecution capacity in the region for the foreseeable future.

Other key requirements, he says, are sufficient and suitable prison facilities, as well as determination of the scope for participation and/or assistance by international judges, prosecutors and other legal professionals, including those from the relevant diaspora populations.

He adds that the establishment of a regional prosecution centre in Seychelles would create a focal point for regional and international support to the prosecution of piracy suspects and help to strengthen the rule of law in Somalia.  The centre would enjoy relative advantages in respect of cost and speed of establishment, as it would be based in the national legal system and would provide a location offering relative logistical ease for the transfer of suspects by naval forces.

Briefings

PATRICIA O’BRIEN, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, presenting the report of the Secretary-General, noted that the Secretary-General had consistently pressed the United Nations and other international organizations to do more to contribute to a solution to the complex problems of piracy off the Somali coast.  He would attend the London Conference on Somalia tomorrow, to be attended by Heads of State and Government, and other senior representatives.  That meeting would be an important opportunity to discuss piracy in the context of the wider issues facing Somalia.  The hope was to drive forward the progress made in several areas; it would be followed in March by meetings of the working groups of the Contact Group on piracy off the Somali coast.

She said the human cost of piracy off the Somali coast was “incalculable”, with killings and widespread hostage-taking.  Although the numbers of incidents had declined in 2011, as had the success rate of those attacks, there were nevertheless 265 hostages being held at the end of the year.  Increasing levels of violence and the expanding geographical scope of the attacks were all extremely worrying.  The problem clearly demonstrated the increasing interdependence of States and people in a globalized world.  The human, commercial and security interests under threat engaged a large number of States and international and regional organizations with a stake in finding a solution.

In response to the Security Council’s request in resolution 2015 (2011), UNDP and the UNODC had conducted detailed consultations with the relevant police, prosecution, judicial and prison authorities in the concerned regional States, she noted.  Indeed, a great deal was already being done to ensure the prosecution of piracy suspects.  A total of 20 States worldwide were prosecuting, or had prosecuted, a total of 1,063 piracy suspects since 2006.  Of that total, more than 900 of the suspects had been prosecuted in 11 States in the region.  Of those, five — Somalia, Seychelles, Kenya, Mauritius and United Republic of Tanzania — were prosecuting piracy suspects with United Nations assistance, or were seriously considering doing so.

She said that those States and others in the region that conducted piracy prosecutions had taken on a heavy responsibility that entailed a commitment of national resources and security risks.  It was key that the international community both acknowledged that important prosecution role and matched their commitment with strong international support.

Turning to the scope of the Secretary-General’s report, she recalled that the Council, in resolution 2015, had requested Somalia and other regional States that were willing to do so to establish specialized anti-piracy courts, or domestic courts.  The Council’s request did not expressly mention the possibility of a Somali specialized anti-piracy court sitting extraterritorially in the territory of another State, and the current report reviews a proposal for a national Somali court.  She notes, too, that consultations with the five States concerned indicate that they would not favour establishing new special courts with jurisdiction exclusive to piracy offences, as that would constrain scarce prosecution and judicial resources.  The term “specialized anti-piracy court”, therefore, was used in the report to refer to a court operating under national law, with international assistance, and with a focus on the prosecution of piracy cases.

Addressing the Council’s request for international assistance for such courts, she drew attention to detailed consultation with the relevant parties in the regional States, noting the report’s conclusion that those jurisdictions collectively could achieve approximately 125 piracy prosecutions per year, with up to 10 suspects in each case.  If international assistance was maximized, therefore, up to 1,250 piracy suspects could be processed yearly in accordance with international standards.  That increased capacity could be achieved within two years in Puntland and Somaliland, with an additional year of mentoring and monitoring, and within one year in each of the other jurisdictions.  The cost of the assistance for prosecutions set out in the report over a three-year period in Puntland and Somaliland would total a little more than $7 million, and over a two-year period, in the four remaining regional States, $9.5 million.

The potential, therefore, was for more suspects to be prosecuted per year in those five regional States than the total number of piracy suspects prosecuted globally since 2006, and at a cost that was “modest compared to that of any of the existing international or hybrid tribunals”, she explained.  The projected maximum capacities for the various jurisdictions, however, were based on the best estimates of UNDP and UNODC, but were not necessarily guaranteed.  The report, she notes, also outlines a possible discrepancy between the maximum achievable caseload capacity and the actual demand for prosecutions being generated by the capture of piracy suspects at sea by naval forces off the Somali coast.  She did not know the reasons underlying the low number of requests for transfer to regional States.  Then too, if a large number of suspects were being released at sea, it would be key for the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts to combat piracy to determine why that was the case.

She, meanwhile, commended the Government of Seychelles for hosting a regional prosecution centre to develop the regional expertise to track piracy finances and develop cases for the prosecution of those who planned, organized and financed piracy attacks.  She also drew attention to the detailed implementation proposals for specialized anti-piracy courts set out in the Secretary-General’s report, divided into measures of a more general nature, including a number that might be considered by the Council itself and specific measures of assistance to be taken by UNDP and UNODC.

YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that based on his agency’s data, pirates had received about $170 million in ransom for hijacked vessels and crews last year, up from $110 million in 2010.  The average amount paid to pirates in 2011 was about $5 million, although $10 million had been paid for the release of one tanker.  He said that the ransom money from piracy was flowing into the legal financial system at an increasing rate.  The laundering of piracy proceeds was causing steep price rises in the Horn of Africa and the surrounding area.

Continuing, he said the money was also being reinvested in criminal activities that were not limited to piracy, and that drugs, weapons and alcohol smuggling, as well as human trafficking, also benefitted from the proceeds.  Although UNODC was unaware of an ideological link between Al-Shabaab and pirates, there was strong evidence of cooperation in furtherance of the aims of the two groups.  “Therefore, piracy is creating a clear threat to the stability of the region,” he said, noting that UNODC’s Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism was engaged in cooperation with other United Nations agencies and Member States within Working Group 5 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

That programme was helping to increase awareness about illicit money flows linked to piracy, and central to its activities was supporting the financial intelligence units and law enforcement agencies in Asia.  While noting complementary work under way with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Bank, he said that for the international community’s efforts to be more effective, all stakeholders needed support beyond the region.  That would be the best way to sever the arteries that sustained piracy, while continuing to address the crime itself.  UNODC’s Counter-Piracy Programme was providing support to regional countries agreeing to undertake prosecutions.  The agency was also carrying out extensive training programmes for police, prosecutors, judges and prison personnel in Kenya, Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as within Somalia, where security allowed.

He said that programme, which had begun in 2001 with $500,000, would this year be implementing some $16 million worth of technical assistance programmes.  In addition, UNODC’s Piracy Prisoner Transfer Programme supported the transfer of convicted pirates back to Somalia to serve their sentences, while ensuring that prison conditions met international standards.  UNODC had built a model prison in Hargaisa, Somaliland.  Construction in Garow, Puntland, had begun with the building of a prison academy, he said, adding that a court, a farm and a 500-man prison would soon follow.  All such assistance aimed at strengthening the overall criminal justice systems, including in Kenya and Seychelles, and helping those systems become fair, efficient and operating in line with human rights standards.

Based on UNODC’s review, 1,116 young Somali men were being or had been prosecuted for piracy in a total of 20 countries around the world, and 688 in the region.  He said that 168 pirates were or had been prosecuted in Kenya, with 50 having been convicted, and 17 acquitted.  The remainder were awaiting trial.  As for the Seychelles, 88 pirates were being or had been prosecuted, with 63 convicted and the remainder awaiting trial.  He noted that Mauritius had signed a transfer agreement with the European Union and would accept the transfer of piracy suspects for prosecution.  A joint UNODC/European Union programme was now being implemented to support the Government of Mauritius to that end.

He went on to note that, while the UNODC’s Counter-Piracy Programme was contributing to criminal justice systems in the region, the existence of child pirates within those systems was a complex issue.  In the absence of birth certificates, or other records, courts in Kenya and the Seychelles had determined that 7 of 252 pirate suspects were under the age of 18.  In response, the Programme was currently developing an advocacy initiative to reach out to Somali youth, which would liaise with key stakeholders, including community leaders, politicians and religious leaders.  Also, radio, television and print media would be used.  Overall the advocacy programme would complement a UNDP initiative on alternative livelihoods that would use microfinance projects, among others, to show Somali youth that there were sustainable choices other than piracy.

Overall, he said, the issue of piracy required a strong inter-agency approach that addressed not only law enforcement and judiciary aspects of the problem, but also its root causes, in Somalia itself, as well as in the world’s financial centres.

Statements

SERGEY N. KAREV ( Russian Federation) said for the second day the Council was seized with threats to international peace and security stemming from transnational organized crime, which, once again, underscored the need for it to pay increasing attention to those growing threats.  Many issues remained with respect to establishing effective legal mechanisms with international legal participation, specializing primarily in the prosecution of pirates off the Somali coast.  The report underscored that, despite scaled up international efforts, the business of piracy was flourishing and expanding.  The most recent data indicated that ransom levels for piracy and losses incurred totalled $12 billion per year.  The “business” was helped by the prevailing situation in Somalia, but it was clear that, without building the appropriate capacities for tackling impunity for pirates, improvement was “unlikely here”, and “the signals of sweeping improvement in the prosecution of pirates have yet to surface”.

Indeed, he said, the report once again reiterated that the overwhelming majority of suspects were released.  In 2011, detainees in only four cases had been transferred to States of the region for prosecution by national courts.  The situation was such that, in Somaliland, almost 100 convicted pirates had been released.  Thus, naval personnel preferred to avoid detaining alleged pirates, because they knew what they would be up against in their transfer to regional courts and that there was no guarantee the suspects would join the ranks of convicted pirates.  His country was interested in studying the root causes of the situation.  Ambiguity remained in important aspects, such as legal proceedings, detention, transport, and data collection.

He said he attached great importance to the strong judicial and law enforcement capacities of the countries of the region.  According to the Secretariat, if the international community continued to support current prosecution mechanisms over the next two years, the situation would turn around, but he did not see a basis for such optimism.  The resources of coastal States were limited, and even with intense aid, those States could not deal with the number of pirates, and that was illustrated by the data in the report.

He believed future additional measures were necessary for the prosecution of pirates, but mindful that the foundation of anti-piracy justice mechanisms was to be found in national bodies of the justice systems of the States of the region.  Given the limited financial capacity, it would be advisable now to concentrate efforts on establishing anti-piracy legal mechanisms with international participation in those countries that demonstrated “absolute readiness” to implement such measures.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said the report presented a “grim picture” of piracy off the coast of Somalia.  The total number of attacks continued to be high and it had spread into the Red Sea, the Somali Basin and the western Indian Ocean.  Further, the challenges that Somalia faced in relation to the adequacy of the country’s legislative basis for piracy prosecutions, and the level of training and qualifications of Somali judges, prosecutors and other legal professionals needed to be addressed on a priority basis, particularly since the Somali authorities continued not to favour the establishment of a Somali court outside the territory of Somalia.  A decision from the budgetary point of view would also be useful.

Before a final view on the establishment of extraterritorial Somali courts, there was also a need to consider the estimated annual costs for the establishment of such courts, in consultation with the interested regional States and concerned United Nations agencies, he said.  The need for stand-alone premises, associated security costs, and the salaries and other expenses of international experts, including judges, prosecutors, including from the Somali diaspora, and the sources of such funding on a sustainable long-term basis were important.  The report had raised important issues, yet “the solution to the problem of piracy in Somalia lies not in the sea but on the land”, and the Transitional Federal Institutions must follow the road map with sincerity and commitment.  He also supported the strengthening of the national and regional capacity in the drafting of national anti-piracy legislation, and towards the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of suspected pirates.  Prosecution of those involved in the financing of pirate activities and the cooperation of States in the sharing of information and evidence of such persons and activities, including in the release of hostages, was equally important.

LOTFI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco) said the Secretary-General’s report presented a series of measures that could have a positive impact on the combat against piracy off the coast of Somalia.  That scourge continued to threaten security in the region, and curtailing it and ending impunity required comprehensive measures that included, along with provision of necessary resources, building capacities in the judicial and police sectors.  It would also require bolstering legal regimes and ensuring that any activities were in line with human rights norms.  The countries of the region were undertaking significant efforts to those ends, and he commended the technical assistance being provided by the UNODC and the UNDP.

He supported the Secretary-General’s appeal to all Member States to scale up assistance to Somalia and neighbouring States and he hoped tomorrow’s London conference would make significant strides in that regard.  All decisions in the area must follow international standards and must cover all aspects of the scourge, including financial aspects.  It would also be necessary to address the root causes of piracy in Somalia.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said that the Secretary-General’s report, along with the work of UNODC and the UNDP, provided an excellent blueprint for the Organization to press ahead with the fight against piracy.  The United States was “cautiously optimistic” about some of the findings in the Secretary-General’s report, including the decline in attacks and the success with some anti-piracy measures.  At the same time, his delegation was concerned that the reach of pirate operations was expanding and that armed robberies at sea were still exacting a troubling human toll.  The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia must adopt adequate counter-piracy legislation by the end of the transition period.  Somalia’s transitional parliament must do the same.

He said the United States appreciated the help provided by United Nations agencies to Somalia and States of the region in bolstering their police and justice systems to increase the number of prosecutions.  He also welcomed the establishment of a piracy-related database by INTERPOL, as a valuable way to facilitate access to information to all those engaged in the fight against the scourge.  The United States would continue to do its part and currently held pirates in custody in regard to five attacks on United States vessels.  Finally, he called on all States to contribute to the Trust Fund on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, to allow timely implementation by UNODC, UNDP and others of as many of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report as possible.  He also endorsed the report’s suggestion that an assessment be conducted to help determine the number of piracy suspects captured and released as a way to sharpen future counter-piracy strategies.

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that, despite the reduction in the number of attacks off the Somali coast, the total number of such attacks remained high and he was concerned about their geographical spread and increasing sophistication, the number of hostages, violence against crew and their use as human shields.  Piracy was a consequence of institutional fragility and the precarious economic conditions in Somalia; security off the coast started on land, and for that reason, the country was the main source and the main victim.  It should, thus, take full part in finding a solution.  It was important to re-establish peace in Somalia and promote its social and economic development.  The institutions must be enhanced to ensure that the economic and security component and judicial and penal systems developed simultaneously.  The focus should be on prevention and prosecution of piracy in order to enhance all links in the chain to combat crime.

Also critical, he said, was for the Somali people to view piracy as an activity that reduced their development options.  The sovereignty of Somalia over its land and maritime resources should be re-established.  It was essential, therefore, to deal with the legal question of the delimitation of its maritime space in line with international law and establish clearly the borders and exclusive economic zone with Kenya, Djibouti and Yemen.  The international community should continue to support the Federal Transitional Government on both land and at sea, and enhance the monitoring of violations against the arms embargo and other sanctions.  Somalia should take ownership of its legal system and end impunity.  It must create a Somali legal system capable of trying pirates and enhancing Somali jurisdiction, and prisons should be created.

For all that, international assistance and training was needed, he said, though the main responsibility for combating piracy and armed robbery lay with the Federal Transitional Government.  Regarding special Somali tribunals, the objective was to have courts with a broad mandate to deal with common pirates and those responsible for financing, planning and organizing such acts.  Setting up a special extraterritorial tribunal must enjoy the support of the Federal Transitional Government and should be seen as a time-bound measure.  He lauded the decision of the Seychelles to launch a regional coordination information centre.  A stable and lasting solution to the piracy problem must be part of efforts to resolve the crisis in Somalia and enhance the rule of law there.  Alternatives to piracy must be established, based on investment in communities, which would be less costly ultimately to the international community and provide a more lasting solution to the problem.

GUO XIAOMEI ( China) said the root cause of the issue was on land and thus should be treated in terms of the symptoms and root causes.  The key was to achieve peace and stability and promote economic and social development.  The Federal Transitional Government and the international community should adopt an integrated strategy and work in a balanced manner.  She welcomed identification of the key transition task of drafting a constitution and deciding the shape of the future political system, and she called on the international community to continue to assist Somalia to achieve peace and development.

Concerning the establishment of Somali specialized anti-piracy courts, she said that ending pirates’ impunity was important to combating the problem, and China was open to the choice of means to achieve that objective and was willing to explore all possibilities.  But, she noted the problems involved in establishing such a tribunal, inside or outside Somalia, as well as the absence presently of an agreement among the concerned parties.  The idea still faced various political, legal and security challenges.  The international community should continue efforts to find the most feasible and effective solution, while respecting the view of Somalia and other concerned regional countries.  As for whether such a court could be established in the short-term, strengthened capacity-building for those countries was also key, and she called on the international community to continue to assist Somalia and its neighbours in that regard.

FRANCISCO VAZ PATTO ( Portugal) said the phenomenon of piracy off the coast of Somalia had its roots in Somalia “feeding itself on lawlessness”, impunity and deficient systems on the ground to fight the scourge.  The complexity and dimensions of the problem required an “ensemble of measures” and efforts by many actors, and encouraged countries in the region, such as Seychelles, Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Mauritius, to take the steps they are able to carry out with the support of UNDP and UNODC.  In that regard, Portugal supported the recommendations that aimed at increasing programmes of assistance and building capacity in those countries and regions to help them fight impunity for piracy acts.

Portugal, however, believed that more had to be done to involve Somalia in all those efforts, as no solution could be sustained unless Somalia, as a whole, was able to cope with the problem:  with appropriate law, with Somali courts and judiciary.  In that regard, Portugal encouraged further efforts by the United Nations in assisting Somalia in adopting the necessary anti-piracy legislation and establishing the necessary judiciary structures, with international assistance and relevant expertise, as needed.  Further, extraterritorial Somali courts could also be useful tools to be used as a transitory measure, while security conditions on the ground were not yet met.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) commended the efforts that had been undertaken to date by the Secretary-General, UNDP and UNDOC, as well as the Legal Adviser on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, all of which had gone a long way towards creating and maintaining a framework of legal actions against the scourge.  He also hoped such efforts would pave the way for enhanced measures to try and imprison pirates.  Such activities must be carried out only after a thorough examination of legal and constitutional implications, especially regarding the judicial matters.

He noted that Guatemala could offer its own experience regarding the fight against impunity, including with the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, which, through its important work, had created an environment of combating impunity in the country.  Ensuring the speedy trial and sentencing of pirates was essential in fighting impunity and deterring future attacks.  He encouraged Member States to assist Somalia to that end.  The United Nations must assist with legislative arrangements and improvements in prison facilities in Somali and the region.  It was vitally necessary for Somali transitional authorities to adopt a package of anti-piracy laws before the end of the transition period.

EMMANUEL BONNE ( France) said that the Council had been debating the bane of piracy for several years, and today, on the eve of the London conference, effectively tackling the issue remained as urgent as ever.  Indeed, while the rate of piracy attacks had decreased, they were still continuing and taking a serious human toll.  There was no credible judicial solution in sight, no effective legal response, and no real alternative options for Somali youth.  Adequate Somali anti-piracy legislation must, therefore, be adopted without delay.  “Our message to the Somali authorities in this regard must be firm; progress must be made,” he said, recalling similarly that necessary legislative efforts had not been made in Somaliland or Puntland.

He went on to note other challenges confronting anti-piracy measures, including poor training of judicial officials and poor prison facilities.  While more efforts must be made to enhance the capacities of neighbouring countries to try and imprison pirates, it was not possible for those countries to bear the brunt of all the inherent challenges.  “Let us not forget the importance of a Somali-led solution,” he said, stressing:  “We can do nothing sustainable without legislation.”  The international community should support a Somali-owned legal solution to piracy, including through the provisions of technical assistance to courts and legal experts.  France remained ready to work with the wider Council and members of the Secretariat on such issues.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said piracy was impacting trade and commerce in the region and beyond, yet the menace was far from being eradicated.  Recent reports from maritime organizations had indicated that, on average in 2011, there had been two pirate attacks every three days.  The threat posed to peace and stability in the Somali coastal areas and the hinterlands had not diminished, and its eradication required a concerted long-term strategy encompassing political, security and governance tracks.  Judicial measures were also an essential element of an integrated approach, as effective prosecution and correction would supplement the important work by the international naval forces to interdict pirates.

Noting that the Secretary-General’s report and today’s briefing had evaluated the administrative and financial details of setting up regional prosecution mechanisms, he said that tackling piracy was a shared responsibility and he valued the support of the Seychelles and others in the region to assist with prosecutions.  International assistance and capacity-building of judiciaries in regional countries was critical, as was accommodating Somalia’s views in such arrangements.  He hoped the next meeting of the Contact Group would deliberate on the prosecution capacities of regional States.  Pakistan was playing its role in a number of ways to counter piracy, he said, adding that no measure, however, could be effective without taking into account the root causes, building State capacity in Somalia, preventing environmental degradation and improving employment opportunities for youth.  He welcomed today’s adoption of the resolution to boost assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and he had high hopes for tomorrow’s London Conference.

CHRISTOPHE EICK ( Germany) said that his country had a long-standing commitment to the combat against piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the region.  It had provided substantial support to the efforts of the UNODC and UNDP in strengthening capacities in Somalia and neighbouring States in the areas of prosecuting suspected pirates and imprisonment of those convicted, both directly and through the Contact Group Trust Fund.  Yet, despite such efforts, and those made by others, “there is a long way to go”, he said, stressing that piracy off the coast of Somalia remained a very concerning issue, and while the number of attacks had declined last year, the persistent threat of piracy and armed robbery was as grave as ever.  Moreover, despite all the efforts undertaken by the international community, the geographical reach of pirate operations now extended into the entire Western Indian Ocean, posing new challenges for those committing resources to the fight against the scourge.

He said that Germany continued to believe that it must ultimately be in Somalia that pirates were prosecuted and imprisoned.  The urgent establishment of adequate structures in that country, in line with the rule of law and human rights standards, was crucial to reaching that goal.  He strongly urged the Transitional Federal Government to adopt piracy, prison and prison transfer legislation before the end of the transition period.  In the medium-term, it would be essential to continue to enhance support for the efforts of States in the region to try and prosecute pirates, in particular in Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and the United Republic of Tanzania.  He added that Germany would welcome, in principle, the creation of a regional prosecution centre, which would act as a focal point for regional and international support for prosecuting piracy suspects.  Germany fully supported the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report and especially encouraged all regional States that had not done so to conclude agreements with naval States and organizations for the transfer of piracy suspects.

The Secretary-General’s report was an important step in enhancing the international effort to prosecute suspected pirates and imprison those that were convicted.  He, therefore, called strongly on the UNODC and UNDP to make use of the report as a basis for their further work in the area.  Finally, while he took note of the challenges cited regarding the establishment of an extraterritorial Somali court in a third country, he said that option should be retained within the range of measures being considered, since it could be an important way to support a nascent Somali legal and judicial system.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan), noting the different view of regional States on the proposed establishment of an extraterritorial Somali anti-piracy court or a regional prosecution centre in a third State, said that, however the advantages offered by such possibilities, the consent of all regional States was an essential prerequisite for successful and effective anti-piracy cooperation.  He was encouraged that a combination of measures, including actions by naval forces, the improved implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidance and industry-developed best management practices for protection against piracy, as well as the imprisonment of more than 1,000 suspects or convicted pirates, had contributed to the decline in the number of attacks and to the reduction of successful attacks throughout 2011.

Besides those actions, the national efforts of the Somali Government and other countries in the region and their commitment to combating piracy, the important prosecution role that they were playing and the measures they had adopted to effectively fight the spread of piracy were commendable.  At the same time, it was important to ensure that national commitments were matched by strong support and assistance from the international community, including through contributions to the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.  Further, it was clear that a sustainable response to piracy off the coast of Somalia required the re-establishment of peace, security and the rule of law in that country, and social and economic development for all its people and international assistance remained crucial.

DIRE DAVID TLADI ( South Africa) said his country remained concerned with the continued incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia and looked forward to the day when the scourge would be eradicated.  He, however, also noted the continuing decline in the month-to-month attacks recorded in 2011, due to the presence of naval forces and the implementation of the industry-produced Best Management Practices and the IMO guidance, and expressed the hope that the trend would continue into this year and beyond.

With respect to the creation of specialized anti-piracy courts, he highlighted the need to ensure national ownership in the establishment of such courts, stressing that the clearest reflection of national ownership was the adoption of national legislation and, in that regard, noted the intention of the Somali authorities to exercise their sovereign right to adopt relevant legislation after the transitional period, when a newly elected Parliament was in place.  He believed the creation of specialized courts in Somalia would, in addition to respecting the wishes of the Somalis, have the added benefits of capacity-building and infrastructure development.  He realized that the security situation in Somalia made that a difficult prospect, but that fact should galvanize the international community to make greater effort to address the security challenges and instability on land.

He further highlighted the concerns expressed by a number of national authorities about the creation of new specialized anti-piracy courts with jurisdiction limited exclusively to piracy, explaining that South Africa was concerned that such a move could serve to redirect limited prosecutorial and judicial resources from other crimes of equal importance to those countries to piracy issues — which in some instances would not be the most serious issue facing those countries.  The wisdom of creating specialized courts, appointing prosecutors, judges and other staff to deal only with piracy had to be weighed against the rate of prosecutions in the countries where such courts were being considered.  Lastly, he highlighted the problem of illegal fishing and dumping off the coast of Somalia which, although not addressed in the current report was, in his view, an integral part of the problems off the coast of Somalia.  Concluding, he said, while piracy was a serious problem, it remained a symptom of a greater problem, which was the instability and political challenges on land.  Yet, according to available information, $2 billion was spent on the naval presence in 2011, while $300 million was approved for AMISOM.  That was glaringly “out of balance”.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said that his Government remained strongly committed to the fight against piracy and believed it was vital “to break the piracy business model” by employing a comprehensive approach that tackled it directly, and its root causes on land.  He noted that piracy would be one of the main topics of discussion tomorrow at the London conference on Somalia, which would be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron.

He went on to say that, despite the significant reduction in the number of successful attacks over the past year, the threat of piracy remained serious and the United Kingdom, therefore, strongly supported efforts to bolster protection and prison capacity in regional States and in Somalia.  Several States already played a vital role in bringing suspected pirates to justice, supported by the international community.  He said the Secretary-General’s report highlighted serious capacity constraints in Somalia, and prosecution by regional States had, therefore, been instrumental in counter-piracy efforts.

“We believe this continues to be the most effective way to prosecute pirates in the short term,” he said, adding that, while the United Kingdom supported, in principle, the report’s implementation proposals to increase capacity through specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia, continuing the broader exercise of building regional capacity remained essential.  A long-term solution that enabled Somali pirates to be prosecuted and imprisoned in Somalia was necessary and the report noted that Somali authorities would prefer new courts to be established within the country, rather than extraterritorially.  That approach, which the United Kingdom supported, was in line with the existing work being carried out by the UNODC and UNDP in Puntland and Somaliland.

He said that the threat of piracy, the effects of the famine and terrorism in Somalia were all symptoms of one central problem:  the breakdown of the Somali State.  Tackling piracy and its causes could not be separated from that fact, and the international community needed to address the on-land issues that fed criminality at sea, including through deterrence, security and the rule of law.  It was crucial that stakeholders mobilized in an integrated way.  The United Kingdom had provided some $15 million in support over the past year, and he urged other nations to respond quickly and generously.

Speaking in his national capacity ELLIOT OHIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said piracy continued to be a pressing issue in Somalia and elsewhere.  That was why the Council had taken up the issue of creating extraterritorial courts for the prosecution and imprisonment of pirates.  Togo appreciated the efforts of UNODC and other United Nations agencies that were assisting States in the region in that regard.  While incidents of piracy had decreased over the past year, the reach of pirates was extending farther into the Indian Ocean and incidents of kidnapping of ship crews and passengers were on the rise.  Togo, therefore, welcomed proposals for the implementation of joint anti-piracy measures by States in the region.

He said that those States must do their part, but Somalia must also bring its legislation in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  United Nations funds and programmes must also provide technical assistance to help States in the region with carrying out investigations, training judicial officials and enhancing legal procedures.  He called on the Security Council to envisage the implementation of anti-piracy courts in the region, along with the establishment of a regional anti-piracy centre.  Such actions would set an example for similar measures in other regions, including the Gulf of Guinea.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.