News / Africa

United Nations Considers Anti-Piracy Court

Larry Freund

The United Nations Security Council Wednesday discussed the prosecution of suspects charged with piracy off the coast of Somalia. Larry Freund reports from New York.

The council began consideration of a new report from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that provides seven options for the future prosecution of suspected pirates.

The choices range from strengthening existing courts in Somalia and other countries to establishing a new international tribunal.

According to the report, the number of piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia continues to escalate. The report says that while the number of attacks remains high, the success of the attacks has been reduced, thanks to increased naval patrols off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Aden. But as of May 15, some 450 mariners were being held hostage on vessels captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Mr.Ban told the Security Council that in the past seven months, 139 piracy-related incidents occurred off the coast of Somalia and 30 ships have been hijacked. He said the international community has made concerted efforts over the past three years to combat the problem, but he added, "we can do more."

"Reducing and eliminating piracy in the region means a sustained response not only at sea but also on land where piracy originate. The security of international navigation requires that we continue to support peace and stability in Somalia," he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said significant challenges to the effort to suppress piracy remain, adding that there are no easy answers to the exercise of bringing pirates to justice. She told the Security Council that any long-term solution will require political will and financial resources from the international community and the states in the region.

"We're particularly grateful that the Secretary-General's report discusses at length the vital issue of imprisonment. We agree with the report's assessment that having sufficient arrangements for imprisonment in the region is just as important - if not more so - than the mechanism for prosecution. In fact, if such imprisonment arrangements could be identified, many more states may be willing to prosecute suspects in their national courts," he said.

The Security Council, in a statement read by its president, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, through a translator, said it continues to be gravely concerned by the threat that piracy poses to the situation in Somalia and other states, as well as to shipping.

"The Security Council strongly believes that persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, including those who incite or intentionally facilitate such acts, should be brought to justice," he said.

The Security Council, now reviewing the judicial options, said the effective prosecution of suspected pirates may deter future pirate attacks.

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