Seychelles praised for lead role in prosecuting pirates


The praise, delivered on behalf of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and echoed by members of the Security Council, came on the eve of the London summit on Somalia yesterday and which was attended by Seychelles President James Michel, among other world leaders.

Speaking for Mr Ban Ki-moon, who was on his way to the London conference, his legal counsel and under-secretary general for Legal Affairs, Patricia O'Brien, described Seychelles' willingness to act as a regional prosecution centre as an important development in the battle against piracy in the Indian ocean.

"I would like to take this opportunity to commend the government of Seychelles for this initiative," Ms O'Brien said, while recognising that this was "understandably contingent upon there being an effective post-trial transfer framework in place so that those convicted can serve their sentences in Somalia".

Ms O'Brien's statement was later echoed by the representative of the United States which was one of several countries that commended Seychelles.

The Security Council was debating a report by the secretary general on specialised anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other states in the region.

Pointing out that Seychelles will this year also open a regional anti-piracy prosecution and intelligence coordination centre, Ms O'Brien described this as "a most important development that accords with the emphasis of the Security Council...on the need to prosecute not only suspects captured at sea, but also key figures of the criminal networks who organise and profit from piracy attacks".

Yury Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), later reported that pirates received some US $170 million in ransoms for hijacked vessels and crews last year, a 54% increase on 2010.  The average ransom in 2011 was about US $5 million, although as much as $10 million was paid for the release of a tanker.

Noting that Seychelles and four other states of the region were prosecuting piracy suspects or seriously considering doing so, Ms O'Brien said: "I am most grateful to these states for their...dedication in combating piracy”.

She added that the secretary general's report reflected "that the states in the region that are conducting piracy prosecutions have taken on a heavy responsibility that entails a commitment of national resources, as well as security risks.

"It is key that the international community both acknowledges the important prosecution role that they are playing, and matches their commitment with strong international support and assistance."

The UN secretary general's report indicates that of the 20 countries holding and prosecuting Somali piracy suspects, Seychelles is third in convicting the most pirates after Somalia itself and Yemen.



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