The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has voiced the office’s commitment to strengthening the capacity of authorities in the Somaliland to prosecute captured pirates who have menaced maritime trade off the coast of Somalia over the past decade.
On a visit to the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland yesterday, Yury Fedotov, UNODC’s Executive Director, met with the President of Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud and the Justice Minister Ismail Muumin to discuss UNODC’s counter-piracy work in East Africa.
UNODC will assist Somaliland authorities in tackling maritime piracy as well as look into ways of addressing the underlying causes of piracy.
Mr. Fedotov also visited the recently refurbished Hargeisa Prison in Somaliland, which was officially opened in November last year as part of UNODC’s counter-piracy work in Somaliland. The prison is considered critical to Somaliland’s efforts to deal with the piracy and will provide additional space for pirates arrested by Somaliland’s Coast Guard and convicts tried in other courts.
UNODC’s involvement in Somaliland follows similar initiatives in neighbouring Puntland and Somalia on prison and judicial reform. With an estimated combined 350 suspects and convicted pirates held in Somaliland and Puntland, the complementary components of prosecutorial and prison services are key to responding to piracy in the region.
“Critical to the success of fighting piracy is ensuring that judicial provisions on land are in place. UNODC are working with the Somaliland authorities in their judicial reform process and prosecution services in a bid to step up responses to what is clearly a scourge both to maritime trade and travel and to local development,” said Mr. Fedotov.
The UNODC anti-piracy initiatives in the Horn of Africa are in response to growing global concern over the rising number of ship hijackings in the Indian Ocean.
While the period between 2000 and 2007 saw an average 26 acts of reported piracy per year off the coast of Somalia, the number jumped to 111 in 2008 and quadrupled to more than 400 in 2009 and 2010, affecting shipping off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and further into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. In 2010 alone, approximately 790 sailors were taken hostage.
In addition to renovating the prison in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, UNODC has also trained staff and provided uniform for prisoners.
“The shift in approach by authorities to supplement incarceration with skills development and rehabilitation is critical. This level of prison reform will assist in tackling the long-term goal of dealing with piracy and UNODC are glad to be able to be part of this process,” said Mr. Fedotov.