NAIROBI, Kenya, December 10 – An international conference on Somali piracy that kicked off in Nairobi on Wednesday was expected to propose a strategy facilitating the arrest and prosecution of pirates in the region’s coastal nations.
The proposal is outlined in a document drafted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and is being discussed at the two-day conference sponsored by the UN and the government of Kenya.
"In order to ensure that alleged pirates are brought to justice, it is important, in the short term, to increase the capacities of countries in the region to facilitate effective arrests at sea, the legal transfer of suspects, and investigation and prosecution of the crimes in jurisdictions that have the legislative and operational capacity to deal with them," the document says.
The 1.3-million-dollar six-month programme will target the criminal justice and law enforcement systems of Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen and Tanzania.
The naval response has been spearheaded by Western fleets since attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean soared to unprecedented levels this year, jeopardising one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.
A 16-country coalition has patrolled the region and was recently reinforced by the European Union’s first-ever naval force but their ability to counter piracy has been hampered by the lack of legal frameworks.
The arrest, transfer and prosecution of Somali pirates by foreign nations is not supported by existing agreements and conventions, although Britain is reportedly on the brink of sealing a deal with Kenya.
On November 18, the British navy handed over eight suspected Somali pirates to the Kenyan authorities for trial. They had been captured during an incident at sea a week earlier.
Some 40 countries, as well as UN agencies, shipping companies and risk management consultancies are represented at the Nairobi conference.
More than 100 attacks have been carried out by Somali pirates since the start of the year. At least 15 ships and more than 300 crew are still being held to ransom off the coast of Somalia.