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Africa
UN envoy proposes 'piracy courts'
Specialised courts should be set up in autonomous northern Somali regions and Tanzania to tackle problem, adviser says.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2011 21:39 GMT
About 90 per cent of suspected pirates are released without charges, according to estimates [EPA]

The UN's special adviser of piracy has called for $25 million to be spent on setting up special courts for suspected pirates in Somalia's semi-autonomous enclaves of Puntland and Somaliland, as well as in Tanzania.

Jack Lang, a former French culture minister, on Tuesday recommended that the specialised courts be set up over the next eight months to begin to try some of the 90 per cent of suspected pirates who are released because nowhere can be found to try them.

The courts would operate under Somali laws.

Somalia, which is in the midst of a conflict between a largely powerless government and armed groups seeking its overthrow, lacks the legal infrastructure to try pirates.

Kenya and the Seychelles have prosecuted dozens of suspects handed over by foreign navies, who patrol of the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to protect some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. However, both have said they would have difficulties coping if all the seized pirates were sent to them.

'Pirate economy'

Lang was briefing members of the UN Security Council on the increasing threat of piracy, which costs the global economy an estimated $7 billion to $12 billion a year.

"Pirates are becoming the masters of the Indian Ocean," he said.

"The pirate economy ... is having a destabilising effect on Somalia and the entire region owing to rising prices, insecurity of energy supplies and loss of revenue."

About 30 ships, ranging from fishing boats to bulk carriers, are currently held by Somali pirates. Around 1,900 people have been taken hostage since the end of 2008.

Lang also recommended that two special prisons be built, one in Somaliland and one in Puntland, with capacity of 500 prisoners each, with a third to be built in Puntland soon afterward.

Any such project will have to be authorised by the Security Council, which took no immediate decision after listening to Lang's oral presentation.

Lang also proposed all countries should make piracy a criminal offense and impose universal jurisdiction for it, meaning they could prosecute pirates whatever their nationality and wherever the offense took place.

Source:
Agencies
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