African states adopt regional anti-piracy agreement

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Thursday welcomed [statement] a regional agreement announced Wednesday to deter piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The Summit of the Gulf of Guinea Heads of State and Government [All Africa report] closed with the adoption of the International Maritime Organization [official website] Code of Conduct concerning the Prevention and Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships, and Illegal Maritime Activities in West and Central Africa [text, PDF]. This development is seen as especially significant because it is a regional solution that is not limited to one or two countries. The summit was attended by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official websites] and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC). The Secretary-General has encouraged all member nations to ratify the agreement individually in order to unify local and regional efforts.

This is a major development in the ongoing struggle to unify anti-piracy task forces across deeply divided regions. The UN Security Council [official website] last November condemned [statement; press release] piracy and acts of armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia. It urged the international community to develop a comprehensive response [JURIST report] to discourage these acts. This summit is one of the first to do so, in response to resolution 2077 [text]. The resolution called on member states to enact domestic legislation that criminalizes piracy and to assist Somalia in prosecuting pirates. Also last November UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stressed the need to address the causes of maritime piracy [JURIST report] with a "multi-dimensional approach". Addressing the UN Security Council, Eliasson noted three areas of concern that warrant immediate action: 1) better coordination, information-sharing and trust-building among countries and agencies involved in counter-piracy operations; 2) stronger capacity to prosecute piracy cases and imprison those convicted in accordance with international human rights standards; and 3) the establishment of a framework governing the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board vessels. The month previous the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg issued sentences [JURIST report] for 10 Somalis who were involved in the hijacking the German freighter MS Taipan off the coast of Somalia two years ago.

 

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