Somaliland [official website; BBC profile], an unrecognized independent region in northern Somalia [BBC profile], opened a maximum security prison [Somaliland Press report] for pirates [JURIST news archive] on Tuesday. The prison, refurbished by a USD $1.5 million grant from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website], is currently only housing prisoners tried in Somalia [Somaliland Press report], with indications that this will be the prison's policy, citing transport as an issue. There is speculation that this may jeopardize Seychelles' continued prosecution of pirates [JURIST report]. The UNODC indicated that future prisons may be opened [press release] in Puntland [BBC Profile], as well as several more in Somaliland. Although the vast majority of captured pirates are Somali, Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991, so prosecution and detention within the nation has been difficult.
Piracy near the continent of Africa has become an increasingly serious problem for private shipowners and many nations. An increasing number of nations have been willing to prosecute pirates captured in international waters. In January, the UN Secretary-General's special adviser on maritime piracy Jack Lang [official profile] proposed an international piracy court [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, US federal courts convicted and indicted [JURIST reports] two sets of Somali pirates. In February, Malaysia charged several suspected pirates [JURIST report]. A German court began the trial [JURIST report] of 10 suspected Somali pirates in that country's first piracy trial in 400 years in November. A Yemeni court sentenced [JURIST report] a group of 10 Somali pirates to five years in prison. Prior to these and other nations trying suspected pirates, Kenya was conducting the bulwark of piracy trials. However, the high court of Mombasa ruled that Kenya does not have jurisdiction [JURIST report] outside of its national waters, releasing nine suspected Somali pirates.