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United Nations: Security Council Resolution Considers Specialized Courts to Combat Piracy in Somalia

(Apr. 18, 2011) On April 11, 2011, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), cognizant of the continuing incidents of armed robbery and other violence against ships off the coast of Somalia and of other states in that region, adopted Resolution 1976. This resolution was preceded by Resolution 1846 adopted in 2008 and two additional resolutions adopted in 2010, in which the UNSC endorsed international naval cooperation to fight piracy. The UNSC stated that it remained “gravely concerned by the growing threat” of piracy and armed robbery in that area. Among the reasons stated for the continuing threat posed by piracy is the lack of jurisdiction to prosecute individuals involved in piracy. Apparently, 90% of the pirates that were captured were later released due to lack of jurisdiction. (Press Release, UNSC, Security Council to “Urgently Consider” Plans for Specialized Courts, Prisons for Somali Pirates, Cites Rise in Violence Off Somalia's Coast(Apr. 11, 2011).)

In Resolution 1976, the UNSC condemned the practice of pirates holding hostages and emphasized the growing need to find a lasting solution to the issue of piracy. It attributed the piracy phenomenon off the coast of the Somalia to that country's existing serious level of poverty and stressed the need to boost Somalia's economic growth. The UNSC also recognized that piracy and armed robbery off Somalia's coast exacerbate its domestic instability, and consequently the crimes constitute a threat to international peace and stability. The UNSC reiterated its call on those states and organizations that have the capability to contribute to the fight against piracy to do so by sending naval vessels, arms, and military aircraft to capture the vessels and arms used to commit piracy. It also commended those states that have changed their criminal laws to include piracy and urged others to follow suit by criminalizing incitement, facilitation, conspiracy, and attempts to commit acts of piracy. It urged States to investigate allegations of illegal fishing and dumping, including of toxic substances, in order to prosecute such offenses. (Id.)

Other major highlights of the Resolution include:

· Piracy as a crime subject to universal jurisdiction;

· The need to investigate and prosecute illicit financing, planning, organizing, and profiting from pirate attacks;

· The need to review domestic legal frameworks for detention at sea of suspected pirates;

· The need to assist Somalia and other states in that region to improve their anti-piracy law enforcement capacities, including anti-money laundering laws and establishment of financial investigation units;

· A request that the Somali Transitional Federal Government draft anti-piracy laws;

· An endorsement of the ongoing efforts of states in the region to develop anti-piracy courts or chambers; and

· A decision to consider the establishment of specialized Somali courts to try suspected pirates in Somalia and in the region, including an extraterritorial, Somali, specialized anti-piracy court. (Id.)

Meanwhile, a report released by the International Chamber of Commerce on April 14, 2011, states that worldwide, through the end of March, 18 vessels and 344 crew members have been taken as hostages. Fifteen of these incidents took place off the coast of Somalia. Seven crew members have died and an additional 34 have been injured. (Daniel Richey, Maritime Piracy at All-Time High, Somalia Waters Driving Explosion: Report, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Apr. 14, 2011).)