The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously called on Somalia to pass laws banning seafaring pirates off its coasts and urged the east African nation to more aggressively combat them and the crime lords on land who finance and organise their raids.
The council passed a resolution 15-0 reauthorising foreign ships, including the European Union Naval Force and African Union, Chinese and Pakistani forces, to continue patrolling sea lanes off Somalia and protecting shipping in the Indian Ocean.
The resolution also told Somalia to step up its efforts to arrest pirates and bring them to trial. Somali pirate cases are tried in other countries whose nationals have been held hostage or killed, or which own ships and cargos and claim jurisdiction, including the United States.
Attacks at their lowest
The council welcomed the news that pirate attacks off Somalia have fallen to their lowest level since 2006.
Armed guards aboard cargo ships and an international naval armada complete with aircraft that carry out onshore raids have put a huge dent in Somali piracy.
Somali pirates hijacked 46 ships in 2009 and 47 in 2010, according to the EU Naval Force. In 2011, pirates launched a record number of attacks — 176. A report by Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon says that there were only 17 pirate attacks in the first nine months of 2013, compared with 99 attacks in the first nine months of 2012. The last seizure of a major vessel was the MT Smyrni, taken for ransom in May 2012.
The resolution encourages countries operating in the high-risk sea lanes to allow “privately contracted armed security personnel” aboard commercial ships to protect them. That issue was debated at the council last year, after Russian and Italian military crews assigned to merchant ships fired on and killed fishermen off Somalia, mistaking them for pirates.
The lingering threat to shipping, the council resolution said, complicates U.N. and international efforts to ship food for famine relief to Somalia.
Somalia’s fragile central government doesn’t control large sections of the country, much of which is ruled by al-Shabab militants allied with al-Qaeda. An African Union military force is trying to help the Somali government extend control over more territory, and the Security Council last week approved a “surge” in resources from troop-contributing countries to try to break the stalemate with al-Shabab.
The new resolution “calls upon the Somali authorities to make all efforts to bring to justice those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate, or undertake criminal acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”