Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fighting Pirates

In the past seven months there have been 139 piracy-related incidents off the coast of Somalia.  Thirty ships have been hijacked, and 17 ships and 450 seafarers are being held for ransom.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that more can be done. In a report released last week, Mr. Ban identified seven options for furthering the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, which has been a growing problem in recent years.

  • The first option presented in the report is to enhance ongoing efforts to assist regional States to prosecute and imprison those responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.
  • The second would involve locating a Somali court, applying Somali law, in a third State in the region.
  • The third and fourth options would involve assisting a regional State or States to establish special chambers, embedded in the State’s national court structure, to conduct piracy trials.
  • Option five would require active engagement by the States of the region and the African Union to establish a regional tribunal to address the scourge of piracy.
  • Option six would be an international tribunal – analogous to existing “hybrid” tribunals – with national participation by a State in the region.
  • Option seven would be a full international tribunal, established by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter.

Mr. Ban emphasized that achieving substantive results in combating piracy – whether through a new or existing judicial mechanism – will require political and financial commitment from Member States.

The Secretary-General announced that he intends to appoint a Special Adviser on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien noted a number of challenges associated with achieving and sustaining substantive results in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast.  These include the large number of suspects, the fact that any judicial mechanism would be addressing a symptom of the situation in Somalia, not its causes, and the lack of any defined completion date for the mechanism’s work.

(adapted from a UN press release)

(mew)

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