Restoring rule of law can help solve piracy problem in Somalia, UNODC Executive Director tells Security Council

Photo: UNODC


10 November 2010 - Presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report yesterday on piracy off the coast of Somalia, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council that military efforts alone would not deter pirates and called for simultaneous action on three fronts - deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development.

Mr. Pascoe said that criminals "were outpacing international efforts to stem the menace," adding that "the root causes of piracy are found on land, and tackling them requires security on the ground." As long as piracy is so lucrative and other economic options so bleak, the incentives are obvious. "Economic rehabilitation and the creation of alternative livelihoods, especially the development and rehabilitation of coastal fisheries, must be at the centre of our efforts to fight piracy," he stressed.

Also addressing the Council, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC, said that more needed to be done to arrest and prosecute Somali pirates operating off the Horn of Africa and in the Indian Ocean.

He called for support to expand his Office's regional programme to more countries; enable Somalia to upgrade its prisons and courts; and ensure that Somali pirates convicted in other countries can serve their sentences in their home country. With some 700 men currently in detention in 12 countries, UNODC is addressing an urgent situation given that long-term imprisonment places a "very substantial burden" on prosecuting countries. Sentences generally range from 5 to 20 years, as the prisons are overcrowded.

The efforts of UNODC and its multilateral partners have had considerable success across the criminal justice sector. "With the right support from the international community, they have the potential to become even more effective and lead to a long-term solution" said the Executive Director.

Mr. Fedotov applauded steps taken by Kenya and Seychelles. (Kenya is currently trying 69 suspects, having convicted 50, and Seychelles, despite its tiny size, has undertaken 31 prosecutions and already convicted 22 suspects.) He also welcomed the recent declaration of Mauritius that it too will assist in the prosecution of pirates.

"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," said Mr. Fedotov.

Established in 2009, the UNODC counter-piracy programme has proved effective in supporting efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects according to international standards of rule of law and respect for human rights. The programme focuses on fair and efficient trials and imprisonment in regional centres; humane and secure imprisonment in Somalia; and fair and efficient trials in Somalia. Its main donors are Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, as well as the European Union and the International Trust Fund of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

The prison system in Somalia has been chronically under-funded but the new prison, which UNODC will open in Hargeisa in mid-November with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme, will meet these challenges more effectively.

UNODC is currently offering support to Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania. As the Secretariat to the Contact Group's Working Group on legal issues, the Office also acts as manager of the International Trust Fund, which supports prosecution-related initiatives.

Finally, Mr. Fedotov welcomed the appointment of Jack Lang as Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the issue.

Related information:

Report of the Secretary-General on Piracy in Somalia (27 October 2010)

UNODC and piracy