U.N. Considers Special Courts for Pirates
The U.N. Security Council heard a proposal yesterday for the establishment of special courts in Somalia and Tanzania to try suspected pirates.
25 January 2011 – The United Nations special envoy on maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia today proposed the setting up of two special courts inside the country and one in Tanzania to try suspected pirates, saying the problem in the Indian Ocean was getting out of hand and required “strong and decisive action.”
Jack Lang, the Special Adviser on Legal Issues related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, 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.
He told the Council, as well as a news conference following the meeting, that the raiders who seize ships and sailors and demand huge ransoms are becoming “masters of the Indian Ocean” with their increasingly sophisticated means of carrying out the criminal actions.
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.
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.
This seems like a reasonable start, although I think the details are crucial. Nor is this a complete solution, since we are talking about two courts (and two prisons). But in combination with self-help measures, and perhaps loosening the rules of engagement for naval forces defending against pirates, the courts can certainly help. Locating a court in Somalia seems a good idea, hopefully it won’t become another NGO boondoggle.