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UN envoy seeks action against pirate ring leaders

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jacklangWith 90 percent of pirates captured by navies being released because nobody will put them on trial, Jack Lang, the United Nations special envoy on maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia last week proposed the setting up of two special courts inside the country and one in Tanzania to try suspected pirates. He also called for action against pirate ring leaders saying that “we know the names of some dozen of these masterminds, who receive the increasingly vast ransoms that fuel piracy.”

Mr. Lang, a well known French political figure, said the international community should work towards “Somaliazation” of responses to piracy by helping local authorities in the regions of Puntland and Somaliland to enhance their judicial and prison capacities in order to prosecute and jail captured pirates.

In his report to the Security Council, Mr. Lang also proposed the establishment, for a transitional period, of a Somali “extraterritorial jurisdiction court’ in the northern Tanzania town of Arusha to deal with piracy cases.

Mr.Lang’s report has the UN Document Number “S/2011/30” Thus far it does not appear to be available on line.

He told the Council, as well as a news conference following the meeting, that the pirates are becoming “masters of the Indian Ocean” with their increasingly sophisticated means of carrying out the criminal actions.

The cost of the measures he has proposed is estimated at about $25 million, a “relatively modest” expense compared to the estimated $7 billion which he said was the cost of piracy.

The international component of the cost to train judges, prosecutors, lawyers, prison guards is “essential,” Mr. Lang said, adding that the UN, the African Union, the European Union and other organizations should contribute.

He also proposed strengthening the forensic element of gathering evidence and the imposition of sanctions against the leaders of piracy gangs.

“We cannot be satisfied with the status quo,” he said, noting the “extreme gravity” of the situation which he said requires “solutions of extreme urgency.”

Mr. Lang said his report is the result of “extensive consultations with 50 States, international organizations, private companies and research institutes.”

Here are some extracts from Mr. Lang’s remarks to the Security Council:

As soon as I was appointed by the Secretary- General on August 26, 2010, I conducted numerous consultations with 50 States, international organizations, private companies and research institutes. I went to most States in the region, in particular Somalia, and to Puntland and Somaliland. I visited prisons and talked with pirates detained not only in Somalia, but also in Mombasa, Kenya. I came from those consultations with a feeling of extreme urgency. The situation is serious. I would even say that it is worsening. Far from slowing down, each day the phenomenon develops significantly. We have seen the industrialization of the phenomenon, an increasing number of pirates, sophisticated operations, the increasing use of mother ships, the latest technology, such as GPS, heavy weaponry, better organization during attacks, seizures and the negotiation of ransoms, and the gradual emergence of a true industry and new professions linked to piracy, including intermediaries, negotiators and interpreters.

It is quite clear and undeniable that nine out of 10 pirates captured by our navies have to be released because there is no effective agreement among most States to prosecute them. Thus, impunity prevails. Nine out of 10 pirates are released because no jurisdiction is prepared to prosecute them.

The consultations I have held pursuant to the task conferred upon me have enabled me to focus on the key idea that only making the legal and detention processes Somali-owned can ensure that prosecution is effective and end, to the extent possible, the impunity enjoyed by pirates.

For moral and religious reasons linked to the devastating consequences — including drugs, prostitution and alcohol consumption — the Somali people themselves are growing increasingly hostile to piracy. They are ready to support efforts on the ground against piracy. The fight against piracy must be supported by the populations affected.

I wish to assert clearly, simply and directly that there is a need to tackle piracy on the ground with the agreement of the Somalis, or at least certain Somalis. I dare say that we must target both the head — the commanders — and the body — the pirates themselves. The mafia-like gang leaders and the ordinary pirates clearly work hand in hand.

I have been able to meet with representatives of many specialized organizations — Interpol in particular, but others as well — on this matter. My initial conclusion is that everything has not been done to reach the top and to get our hands on the instigators of these crimes. We know the names of some dozen of these masterminds, who receive the increasingly vast ransoms that fuel piracy. Organizations that launder money from piracy have been identified.

The report contains three relevant proposals. I will not go into them in detail as I do not want to speak at great length. These three proposals concern the strengthening of forensic policing capacities, the gathering of elements for investigation and evidence that are often overlooked — such as fingerprints and DNA from the boats that have been released, the registration numbers of engines on motherships, the registration numbers of transferred banknotes, the systematic monitoring of financial flows — and the application of individual sanctions against those who order attacks, whose names are well known. The Security Council knows how to target, reach and attack these criminal leaders.

January 30, 2011

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