Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Briefing on Piracy Prosecution

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 25, 2011


Thank you, Mr. President. I also want to thank Special Advisor Lang and Assistant Secretary General Mathias, and the representative of Somalia for their briefings today. And I want to thank especially Special Advisor Lang for his comprehensive and creative report on piracy prosecution.  The United States fully agrees that to truly address piracy, we must find solutions both on land and at sea. 

As Mr. Lang has rightly noted, piracy off the coast of Somalia threatens us all. Captured crews are used as human shields or held for ransom. And the region faces higher prices for basic commodities. Piracy endangers the critical delivery of humanitarian aid.  And the rising sums of illicit funds flowing into Somalia through ransom payments further destabilize the region and fuel the growth of organized crime and terrorism. 

Many members of this Council participate in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which has proved a flexible and efficient forum for coordination and information-sharing.  Much is being done to combat piracy, from disseminating best practices to youth-employment projects. But plainly, much more work remains to be done.

As the report notes, industry adoption of best-management practices and naval operations off the coast of Somalia reduce the rate of successful pirate attacks. Several mechanisms can certify such steps.  For example, measures are reviewed as part of the process whereby a vessel’s security plan is approved under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.  Under other International Maritime Organization provisions, such as the International Safety Management Code, documentation that a vessel has implemented the appropriate best practices can be issued. We welcome assistance in further encouraging the adoption of such best practices, and we encourage nations to contribute ships to patrol the waters off the Somali coast, as several of our fellow Council members have already done.

We also support the report’s recommendation that targeted cooperation with Somaliland and Puntland be increased. 

But the best long-term solution to piracy is a stable Somalia. So the United States supports a wide range of economic-development programs there, including micro-credit and good-governance initiatives.  Tailored initiatives that actively involve the local community may do the most good.

The United States also agrees that prevention, prosecution, and incarceration are essential elements of any counter-piracy initiative.  We strongly support the report’s recommendations that all states criminalize piracy, as defined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and adopt universal jurisdiction over this grave crime.  The report recognizes the need to raise awareness, to encourage piracy’s victims to testify against their attackers, and to explore means to provide such testimony, including via videoconference. We agree.

Mr. President, the United States has long encouraged flag states and states whose crews and vessel owners have fallen prey to pirates to pursue prosecutions in their domestic courts to the greatest extent possible. We welcome the report’s call for all states to strengthen their commitment and ability to prosecute. In cases where American vessels have been attacked, we have prosecuted the suspects. We also recognize the need to develop one or more reliable, practical options for prosecution in the region.  Kenya and the Seychelles are successfully prosecuting piracy cases in their national courts; Tanzania has changed its laws to allow it to prosecute suspected pirates captured elsewhere.  These countries experience indicates that prosecution in the region is potentially viable. We should continue to support regional states’ efforts to try suspected pirates in their national courts. Not only does such support help ensure that piracy bears judicial consequences, it also enhances the judicial capacity of the region as a whole.  As we continue to discuss additional mechanisms, we should also support and strengthen prosecution-related programs in the region that are already underway.

My government also remains open to exploring creative solutions to increase and facilitate domestic prosecutions. The report suggests forming specialized piracy courts in Somaliland and Puntland, as well as a Somali court seated in another country in the region.  We would support further consideration of these ideas including in the Legal Working Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which has been exploring prosecution mechanisms for some time now.

But as the UN report recognizes, incarceration may be the most significant constraint on piracy prosecutions.  The UN Development Program and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime are supporting prison rehabilitation projects, but additional support and options for long-term incarceration are needed.  We encourage states to work with and through UNODC to develop additional facilities where convicted pirates can serve their sentences. The lack of places to incarcerate convicted pirates significantly hinders additional national prosecutions and makes it harder to ensure judicial consequences for piracy.

Finally, as the report notes, we must pay more attention to the instigators, leaders, and financiers of piracy.  We look forward to the conclusions of the next Contact Group plenary meeting about how to move forward.  It is critical to disrupt the financial flows that make piracy both possible and profitable. To that end, the United States will convene on March 1st in Washington an ad hoc meeting of Contact Group participants on the financial aspects of piracy, as called for by the Contact Group, to develop a strategy and an action plan on this topic.

Mr. President, over the last few years, pirates have been using more and more violence.  Their tactics have become more sophisticated, and their vessels have hunted further and further out at sea. We must work together and remain vigilant. In cooperation with the international community, the United States will do its part to combat this common and urgent threat.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2011/013