Yury Fedotov

Director-General/Executive Director

Security Council Briefing on Piracy

New York, 9 November 2010

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Thank you for inviting me to this meeting of the Security Council to take part in this important debate on piracy off the coast of Somalia.  I hope my statement will complement Mr. Pascoe's very clear presentation of the Secretary General's Report.

In the past two years, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has developed a counter-piracy programme to assist regional countries prosecute a significant number of pirates.  With support of the international community, over 700 suspected and convicted pirates are now in detention in 12 countries; more than half of these are in Somalia itself.

Kenya , which has taken the lead in regional prosecutions, is currently trying 69 suspected pirates and has convicted 50 perpetrators.  The Seychelles is a small country, but it has undertaken piracy prosecutions far out of proportion to its size, including the trial of 31 suspected pirates, 22 of whom have already been convicted. Mauritius has recently declared its intention to help prosecute pirates, and Tanzania and the Maldives have also expressed interest.

It is clear that prosecutions and imprisonment of convicted pirates pose a heavy burden for countries in the region.   Initially, regional states were politically cautious to accept the transfer of suspected pirates under their jurisdiction.   While having publicly announced that it was providing its six month notice to terminate the transfer agreement with the EU and other countries, Kenya still continues to accept the transfer of pirates for prosecution on a case by case basis.

There are also a number of challenges relating to capacity of the regional states.  The main concerns in this regard relate to prison conditions and access to defence lawyers.  UNODC is addressing these concerns through its counter-piracy programme both in Kenya and the Seychelles.

The main impediment to regional states from accepting the transfer of suspected pirates for prosecution has been the burden of imprisoning convicted pirates for the length of their sentence, which generally range from 5 to 20 years, as the prisons are overloaded.   The proposal supported by Special Advisor Jack Lang for transfers of the convicted pirates to Somali prisons and expedited trials within the rule of law of Somalia will require additional implementation efforts from UNODC.

Mr. President, as you know, UNODC cooperates closely with the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, serving as Secretariat for Working Group 2 on Legal Issues and as Manager of the CGPCS Trust Fund. UNODC also continues to coordinate its counter-piracy efforts with the IMO, Interpol, UNDP, OLA and DPA.

I would like to commend Special Advisor Lang for his thorough frontline investigation into the legal issues surrounding Somali piracy.  He has met with me and other UNODC staff on a number of occasions, and last month he and  UNODC went to visit the courts in Mombasa, Kenya, the site of many of the region's piracy trials, and to Somalia itself, to inspect the prison that UNODC is opening in "Somaliland" and the prison in Garowe, "Puntland".

It is clear that the only viable long-term solution to the Somali piracy problem is to restore law and order in Somalia (including in its waters). It is also clear that this solution is some years off and will require concerted and coordinated international effort.

In the interim, the UNODC counter-piracy programme, established in 2009, has three major objectives:

  • fair and efficient trials and imprisonment of piracy suspects in regional countries
  • humane and secure imprisonment in Somalia
  • fair and efficient trials in Somalia

Thus far, the Programme has proved effective in supporting efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects in compliance with the rule of law and with respect for their human rights.  Trials are fair and efficient.  For example, the 11 pirates convicted in the Seychelles last week were arrested in March; this seven-month time frame compares favourably with piracy trials in North America or Europe. At the same time, the Programme is building capacity of regional States and, with the new initiatives funded by the Trust Fund underway, the broader criminal justice systems of Somalia are also being reinforced.

UNODC is committed to playing its part to foster and strengthen development in Somalia.  While the difficulties in Somalia are enormous, we are encouraged by the nonpartisan cooperation of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the authorities of "Puntland" and "Somaliland" on counter-piracy efforts through the Kampala process.  The lean and committed team of UNODC staff are working diligently in those parts of Somalia where we are able to operate and will continue to do so.

There are many challenges before us, but I believe that the ongoing efforts to address detention and prosecution of suspected Somali pirates is showing some success, and with the right support from the international community, they have the potential to become even more effective and lead to a long-term solution.  We owe it to the people of Somalia.

Thank you Mr. President.