UNODC Opens Somaliland's First Prison in 50 Years to Further Tackle Piracy Scourge
29 March, 2011 - UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov expressed his Office's commitment towards building prosecutorial capacity in Somaliland to assist in efforts to deal with piracy in the region. The UN's chief anti-crime official met with the President of Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud and the Minister of Justice Ismail Muumin to discuss UNODC's counter-piracy work in East Africa. Through enhancing ongoing efforts to deal with piracy, UNODC is set to assist authorities tackle this crime as well as look into addressing the underlying causes of piracy to achieve longer-term success.
Mr. Fedotov also visited the recently refurbished Hargeisa Prison in Somaliland. The prison, officially opened in November 2010, forms part of UNODC's counter-piracy work in Somaliland and marks the first newly renovated facility in the country in 50 years. The prison is seen as critical in the country's tackling of piracy and will provide additional prison space for pirates arrested by Somaliland's Coast Guard as well as other prisoners sentenced by the courts.
UNODC's involvement in Somaliland follows similar initiatives in neighbouring Puntland and Somalia on prison and judicial reform. With an estimated combined 350 suspected and convicted pirates being held in Somaliland and Puntland, the complementary components of prosecutorial and prison services are key in responding to piracy in the region.
Speaking on the need to build a coordinated response to piracy, Mr. Fedotov noted: "Critical to the success of fighting piracy is ensuring that judicial provisions on land are in place. UNODC are working with the Somaliland authorities in their judicial reform process and prosecution services in a bid to step up responses to what is clearly a scourge both to maritime trade and travel and to local development."
These initiatives come on the back of a growing global concern which has seen the number of piracy incidents in the region increase at an alarming rate in recent years. While the period 2000 to 2007 saw an average 26 acts of reported piracy per year off the coast of Somalia, the number jumped to 111 in 2008 and quadrupled to over 400 in 2009 and 2010 affecting ships off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and further into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. In 2010 alone, approximately 790 crew members were taken hostage.
The opening of Hargeisa Prison symbolizes a key action in helping to significantly boost anti-piracy efforts on a regional level and addresses concerns from neighbouring countries over housing convicted pirates in their prisons. In addition to the refurbishment, UNODC has been working with prison staff to provide training and methods of searching and patrolling as well as supplying uniforms for prisoners. The Executive Director also praised Somaliland's prisoner rehabilitation efforts which aim to provide sewing, welding, woodworking, reading and writing skills: "The shift in approach by authorities to supplement incarceration with skills-development and rehabilitation is critical. This level of prison reform will assist in tackling the long-term goal of dealing with piracy and UNODC are glad to be able to be part of this process."
Piracy in the region has led to several devastating short- and long-term consequences. The surrounding waters act as a key global shipping route, and with the growing incidents of piracy this is impacting on regional economies and world commerce and trade alike; development-wise, the delivery of much needed aid from the World Food Programme has been hampered affecting the lives of millions reliant on this food source and exacerbating an already dire situation.
In recognizing the critical importance of multilateral cooperation to deal with the piracy issue, the government of Somaliland has indicated its strong support for UNODC's Counter Piracy Programme (CPP).