London , 3 February 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here on World Maritime Day for the launch of the International Maritime Organization's Counter-Piracy Action Plan. UNODC looks forward to continued cooperation with the IMO and other organizations and agencies in tackling piracy off the Horn of Africa.
I would like to acknowledge too Secretary-General Ban's strong leadership on counter-piracy efforts, and I welcome last week's report by his Special Advisor, Mr. Jack Lang, to the Security Council. The report recommends further strengthening of a coordinated international response to stop piracy. This is consistent with UNODC's counter-piracy programme, which focuses on supporting regional prosecutions and on rebuilding Somalia's criminal justice capacity. UNODC stands ready to support the implementation of the report's recommendations as directed by Member States.
The maritime expertise of the IMO and the criminal justice know-how of UNODC are complementary, and we rely on each other in our counter-piracy efforts. The IMO provides excellent anti-piracy advice to ship crews that has helped to reduce attacks. In the past two years, UNODC has assisted regional countries prosecute a significant number of pirates. We have been asked to produce some 30 civilian witnesses for piracy trials in Kenya and the Seychelles, and we did so. These witnesses have played an indispensible role in achieving piracy convictions, and I would like to thank the IMO for its help in securing the cooperation of the shipping industry in making these witnesses available.
Although Somali piracy is a maritime problem, its origins are on land. The only viable long-term solution to piracy in Somalia is to address the problems that plague Somalia itself.
UNODC's Counter-Piracy Programme, established two years ago in 2009, is an integral part of our Somalia strategy, which aims to restore stability and the rule of law in this country. Today we have staff based in Somaliland and Puntland in Somalia, and more in Kenya, the Seychelles and Mauritius. The number of staff we have in the field is limited by resources available, but they are professional and dedicated. I look forward to seeing the impact of their work firsthand when I visit the region in the spring.
UNODC also 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 its Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is an important instrument for confronting piracy, and I hope that Member States and the shipping industry will continue to support it.
UNODC's Counter-Piracy Programme is trying to achieve three major objectives:
1. fair and efficient trials and imprisonment of piracy suspects in regional countries;
2. humane and secure imprisonment in Somalia; and
3. in the longer term (and despite the challenges involved), fair and efficient trials in Somalia itself.
So far, the Programme has proved effective in supporting regional efforts to detain and prosecute pirates. We are building the capacity of regional States by training police, prosecutors and prison administrators to deal with piracy suspects. Trials are fair and efficient, with due respect for human rights.
With support from the international community, 740 suspected and convicted pirates are now in detention in 13 countries; almost half of them are in Somalia itself. Recently, the first new prison in 30 years opened in Somalia. And with funding from the British Government, UNODC is about to refurbish and upgrade a prison in Puntland where Somali pirates convicted in other countries can be transferred to serve out their sentences.
Kenya , which has taken the lead in regional prosecutions, is currently trying 69 suspected pirates and has already convicted 50 perpetrators. The Seychelles is a small country, but it has undertaken piracy prosecutions far out of proportion to its size, with 31 already convicted and 16 suspected pirates on trial now.
Yet it is clear that prosecution and imprisonment of convicted Somali pirates pose a heavy burden for countries in the region. The main impediment has been the imprisonment of convicted pirates for the length of their sentences, which generally range from 5 to 20 years. There are also a number of challenges relating to the capacity of regional States, including prison conditions and access to defence lawyers. UNODC's Counter-Piracy Programme is addressing these problems in Kenya and the Seychelles.
These regional challenges make it all the more urgent that we strengthen Somalia's own capacity to prosecute and imprison pirates. By building up currently weak institutions in those parts of Somalia where we are able to work, we are helping to address a problem originating from its shores within a rule-of-law framework, and also beginning to build pride and capacity in Somalia's own institutions.
Many challenges remain, but I believe that ongoing efforts to tackle maritime piracy are 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. The IMO Action Plan will play an important role in this process, and UNODC looks forward to cooperating with you in its implementation.
Stopping piracy off the Horn of Africa will benefit the international community, but we must not forget those who will benefit most: the Somali people. Piracy is feeding off the instability, weak governance and poverty that plague Somalia. By strengthening the rule of law to combat piracy, we are also helping Somalia to rebuild a more just and stable society for all its citizens.
Thank you very much.