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UN Security Council to consider special maritime piracy courts

The UN Security Council [official website] unanimously approved [video] a resolution [1976 (2011) text] Monday to consider creating new laws, courts and prisons specialized to address the growing problem of piracy [JURIST news archive] off the coast of Somalia. The resolution, sponsored by Russia, calls for the creation of piracy courts outside of Somalia and cooperation among countries in combating the piracy problem. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stated that this was the "first practical step in the direction of creating an effective judicial mechanism, one capable of a credible, reliable solution to the problem of bringing pirates to justice." Churkin further asserted:

The worsening situation with piracy off the coast of Somalia requires the international community to adopt qualitatively new measures to combat it. Today we've taken a big step ahead in fighting piracy. The resolution adopted upon our initiative contains a wide array of qualitatively new measures aimed at establishing the necessary conditions for more effectively counteracting the pirates.
Oceans Beyond Piracy [advocacy website] estimated the total cost of piracy [report, PDF] in 2010 to be $7 - $12 billion, including $148 million spent on ransoms and up to $3 billion on re-routing ships. At the end of 2010, approximately 500 individuals were being held hostage by Somali pirates.

Kenya, Germany, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports] have all attempted to prosecute suspected Somali pirates. The US has also been active in prosecuting suspected Somali pirates. In the past few months, US courts have sentenced Somali pirates to 25 years, life and 34 years [JURIST reports] in prison. However, in August a federal judge dismissed piracy charges against 6 Somalis [JURIST report] because the government "failed to establish that any unauthorized acts of violence or aggression committed on the high seas constitutes piracy" under 18 USC § 1651 [text]. Somali officials have criticized [BBC report] the US for exercising jurisdiction over suspected Somali pirates and called for piracy cases to be handled by an international tribunal.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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