News / Africa

UN Report Urges New Anti-Piracy Measures

A new United Nations report urges a number of new measures to combat piracy, including the establishment of special courts.

Jack Lang, appointed last year as a special United Nations adviser on legal issues related to Somali piracy, told the U.N. Security Council the piracy situation is serious, even worsening, with an increase of violence. The former French official said pirates are becoming the masters, in a way, of the Indian Ocean. Lang added there is a race between the pirates and the international community, and that race is being won by the pirates.

Lang urged countries to lift the legal obstacles to prosecuting and imprisoning pirates and he recommended that all countries incorporate the crime of piracy in their legal codes. He also pointed to the lack of prison capacity in the region to accommodate convicted pirates. But, speaking through a translator, he said even if current measures are improved, problems will remain as pirates operate with impunity.

"Nine out of ten are released because no jurisdiction is prepared to prosecute them and this is why, ladies and gentlemen, I decided to find other solutions, other options that would not replace but would complement the very important solutions that you yourselves supported and encouraged," he said.

Lang recommended the establishment of special courts to put pirates on trial in two regions of Somalia - Puntland and Somaliland - as well as in Tanzania. He also urged the increase of prison capacity in Puntland and Somaliland and called for action against the heads of the piracy gangs. Lang estimated that the cost of his recommendations over three years would be $25 million compared to what he estimated is the $5 to $7 billion cost of combating Indian Ocean piracy. He urged the Security Council to act quickly and firmly.

Security Council members responding to the U.N. report generally agreed that the time has come for decisive measures - as Russia’s representative Vitaly Churkin put it. United States ambassador Susan Rice told the Security Council that prevention, prosecution and incarceration are essential elements of any counter-piracy initiative. She said the United States supports the suggestion of the U.N. report that all countries criminalize piracy and she welcomed the report’s call for all countries to strengthen their ability to prosecute pirates.

"As we continue to discuss additional mechanisms, we should also support and strengthen prosecution-related programs in the region that are already underway. My government also remains open to exploring creative solutions to increase and facilitate domestic prosecutions," she said.

Rice said the United States supports further consideration of the special piracy courts suggested by the U.N. report.

Jack Lang, author of the U.N. report, commented after the Security Council discussion, that he felt hope had emerged from the meeting.

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