UNODC and piracy

Skiff captured by Seychelles Coast Guard

A critical component of efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia is to ensure that suspected pirates are brought to justice and the international community has turned to regional countries to assist in this process. UNODC is providing targeted support and capacity building to regional countries who agree to undertake piracy prosecutions to ensure that the trials and detention are fair, humane and efficient and take place within a sound rule of law framework. The main elements of the programme include legislative review and assistance, support to the police, prosecution and judiciary, the provision of logistics and information technology, witness and trial support, prison repairs and refurbishments, training of prosecution, police, maritime authorities and prison management and officers, and the development and sharing of regional expertise.

Prosecution centers have been set up in Kenya and The Seychelles. Kenya holds a total of 123 piracy related prisoners, 18 of whom have been convicted and are already serving their sentences. In The Seychelles 20 piracy suspects are undergoing to trial while a further 11 have already been convicted. Since its inception in May 2009, the EC/UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme has delivered the following key substantial outputs:

  • Completed reviews of the legal frameworks of Kenya, The Seychelles, Mauritius and Tanzania, assessing the adequacy for meeting the demands of prosecuting piracy and set out recommendations changes to be implemented in the short, medium and long term;
  • Supported prosecutors through office improvements, evidence handover routines and training in military organisations and the Law of the Sea;
  • Lent support to the Kenyan & Seychellois police in the form of logistics, travel, introduced best practices, exhibit and evidence handling, and started on the installation of secure exhibit rooms;
  • Developed and improved court facilities, provided interpreters, defense services, online legal resources, reviewed remand cases, witness delivery to trial, and supplied technical equipment (recently completed refurbishment of the Shimo La Tewa Courtroom, Mombasa Kenya);
  • Brought about substantial improvements in prison conditions resulting in reduced overcrowding, doubled sanitation and water supply capacity. Procured mattresses and blankets, painted facilities and provided extra prison medical services and commenced building of staff housing units (Shimo La Tewa Prison, Mombasa, Kenya).

UNODC is currently pursuing an ambitious programme to introduce capacity building measures to other countries in the region that are willing to undertake the prosecution of piracy suspects to reduce the burden presently placed on Kenya. UNODC is also currently working with a number of other regional countries who are considering undertaking piracy prosecutions.

Further, UNODC will also provide technical support to Somalia itself: firstly through the improvement of prison conditions in Puntland and Somaliland to allow for the transfer of convicted pirates back to Somalia and, in the longer term, to increase the capacity of Somalia's basic legal and institutional structures to investigate, prosecute and detain suspected pirates in line with international standards.


UNODC Counter Piracy February 2011 (PDF)