The UN Security Council [official website] on Wednesday began considering several options [report text] to help counter ongoing piracy off the coast of Somalia [JURIST news archive], including the creation of a new international tribunal. In a report released last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] suggested that the UN must establish, or continue to help countries establish, the means to prosecute individuals accused of committing acts of piracy [UN News Centre report], particularly in the high-traffic Indian Ocean and surrounding waters. Ban also explained the challenges facing the UN in pursuing a new international court:
The Security Council request emphasizes the important goal of achieving and sustaining substantive results. A key consideration in this respect would be the need for sufficient political and financial commitment among States, in difficult economic times, not only to establish a new judicial mechanism, but also to sustain it. A new judicial mechanism to address piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia would be addressing a different situation to that addressed by the existing United Nations and United Nations-assisted tribunals. Such a mechanism would face ongoing criminal activity and potentially a large caseload, with no predictable completion date.Ban's suggestions have met with approval from countries in the Security Council. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice [official profile] on Wednesday emphasized the need for adequate imprisonment locations [statement], as well as the importance of establishing stability in Somalia [CFR Backgrounder]. China also announced its support of the report [Xinhua report] on Wednesday, highlighting the need for international cooperation on the issue.
In June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom in Kenya [JURIST report] established to hear maritime piracy cases as well as cases involving other serious criminal offenses. The courtroom opened after the Kenyan government announced in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system and the lack of support that had been promised by the international community. The international community has been supporting actions taken against maritime piracy. The UNODC announced in May that Seychelles would create [JURIST report] a UN-supported center to prosecute suspected pirates. In April, the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging the Secretary-General to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy.