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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Piracy grabs headlines as Crime Commission meets to address global crime wave
21 April 2009 / 03:11

[Dateline: Vienna | Author: iSeek/UNODC]

European Union is providing naval escorts off the coast of Somalia (file photo) - UN News CentreAlmost every day a vessel is captured by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa. The United Nations has been engaged in the process of formulating an adequate response to the challenge of piracy over the past few months.

On 16 April 2009, the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice opened its 18th session in Vienna. On that occasion, the Executive Director of the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, warned that "crime has gone global" and "poses a security threat to cities, nations and entire regions."

In an editorial on piracy published in Lloyd's List on 5 February, Executive Director Costa advised that "piracy has become big business.” He explained that “Somali pirates are in it for the money, not for ideology."

How can this be stopped?

According to Mr. Costa, the first option should be prevention. The international community must help, and not only Governments and international organizations. A second option is for the suspects to be sent to stand trial in the countries whose ships captured them. Mr. Costa added that a third, and more realistic, option is for the pirates to be tried in the region, having been arrested by local policemen.

Mr. Costa suggested that there is another way to catch the pirates: go after their treasure. He argued that unlike the buccaneers of old, Somali mafias are not burying their booty in the sand. Some of the cash is distributed by hand or through the "hawala" system.

In short, while pirates may be elusive, they have vulnerabilities that should be exploited.

The UNODC Executive Director concluded his editorial in stating that "although piracy has not changed a great deal since the days of the Caribbean or the Barbary Coast pirates, law enforcement can now count on multilateral cooperation, international laws and superior communication technologies. Let's defeat these bandits in the courts, the ports and the banks, as well as on the high seas."

The 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which runs until 24 April, addresses world crime trends and responses at a time of an unprecedented rise in organized crime.

For further information

United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice 18th session in Vienna (UNIS)

What to do about piracy? (UNODC)

Pirate attacks could ramp up hunger in Africa, warns UN agency (UN News Centre)

UN envoy to Somalia calls for boost in international efforts to fight piracy (UN News Centre)

Defeating piracy requires restoration of law in Somalia, Ban says (UN News Centre)