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Working To Curb Somali Piracy


An armed suspected pirate looks over the edge of a skiff, in international waters off the coast of Somalia.

On August 25th, the United Nations Security Council met in New York to debate how to promote a 21st Century solution for this 17th Century crime.

Piracy is an old problem that has taken on a troubling new form in the waters off the coast of Somalia. Since January of this year, pirates off the Horn of Africa have initiated 98 attacks, and hijacked 29 ships. Today, 16 of these ships and 354 mariners are being held for ransom.

These attacks along one of the world's busiest shipping routes, "continue to affect us all through increased risk to our citizens, disruption of global commercial shipping, and damage to property and goods," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

On August 25th, the United Nations Security Council met in New York to debate how to promote a 21st Century solution for this 17th Century crime.

The root causes of piracy can be found in the current political and security situation in Somalia, as a consequence of decades-long internal conflict and lack of governance.

"Reducing and eliminating piracy in the region means a sustained response not only at sea but also on land where piracy originates," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he presented the report.

It is a major challenge for the international forces protecting shipping off the Horn of Africa. In response, the United States supports and cooperates with a number of international initiatives to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, such as EUNAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, Combined Maritime Forces’ CF-151, and various other national missions.

The UN report analyzed 7 options for the prosecution of suspected pirates, ranging from strengthening existing courts in Somalia and neighboring countries, to establishing a new international tribunal.

Piracy is an international problem that requires an international solution. The United States believes that prosecution of pirates in the region has significant benefits. The United States has actively supported UN efforts to support countries in East Africa to bring pirates to justice.

As Ambassador Rice noted, "[The] prosecution of suspected pirates and imprisonment of convicted ones are essential to end impunity for acts of piracy."

"Any long-term solution will require political will and financial resources from the international community and the states in the region," she said, adding that, "Ultimately, the problem of piracy off the Horn of Africa will not be solved until Somalia is stabilized. To that end, the United States continues to strongly support the Djibouti Peace Process and the Transitional Federal Government [of Somalia]."

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