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Resolution 1976: a legal arsenal against pirates. Details

Arrest of suspects by the Louise Marie (credit: Belgian navy, November 2010)

(BRUSSELS2) With all the news that is blooming, I have the impression that the resolution – which bears the number 1976 – which the UN Security Council adopted on Monday (April 11), has passed a little unnoticed. However, it deserves more than a glance. In line with Jack Lang's proposals in his report to the Secretary General, and previous resolutions, it marks a new stage in the fight against (Somali) piracy, a more legal stage. NB: the resolution was proposed by Russia – campaigning from the start for an international jurisdictional solution for piracy – and adopted unanimously by the 15 members.

The resolution, in fact, kicks off the creation of special courts. This is the most visible measure but it is not the only one. It prescribes a Somali anti-piracy law, courts, procedures for transferring suspects, exchanges of evidence, prisons... and even funding, possibly coming from the maritime world. It can also be noted that the resolution specifies the offense of piracy, extending it to both the attempt and the act, to those who incite to commit these acts, are complicit in them or benefit from them (particularly money laundering).

In short, it is a real legal arsenal which is thus made available to the different States. More generally, we can also note that the international organization is continuing a work of legal inventiveness, based on a new international law, which could be called “resolutory”, which broadens the basis of international law, contained until then in conventions, or even in any text applicable at the international level. We are thus in the same movement, resolutely interventionist, as the 1973 resolution on Libya with “the protection of civilians… by all means necessary”.

Strengthening Somali structures

A Somali or offshore jurisdiction

The resolution provides: to urgently explore the possibility of establishing special Somali courts to try persons suspected of piracy, both in Somalia and in the region, including a specialized extraterritorial Somali court ».

The UN Secretary General “ two months to prepare a report setting out the modalities of these prosecution mechanisms, the involvement of international staff and other types of support and assistance provided by the international community ».

Funding for these structures would be provided through the Trust funds ". And the maritime sector, in particular, is invited to contribute to this fund.

A legal and institutional mechanism

The Somali government must develop and adopt a comprehensive set of laws to combat piracy ". And States, such as UNODC, UNDP or other regional organizations, have a mandate to help Somalia to “to create a system of governance and establish the rule of law and police controls in areas infested with crime where land-based activities related to piracy are carried out”.

transfer agreements

States and UNODC are responsible for “adopt measures consistent with the rules of applicable international human rights law to facilitate the transfer of suspected pirates for trial and that of convicted pirates for imprisonment, in particular within the framework of transfer or transfer agreements “arrangements provided for this purpose”.


UNODC is tasked with building “additional prisons” in Puntland and Somaliland, and continuing to ensure “training of prison staff according to international standards".

The establishment of a Somali coast guard force

States – and regional organizations – are requested “to help Somalia strengthen the capacities of its coast guard, in particular by assisting in the establishment of land-based coastal surveillance means and by cooperating more closely, where appropriate, with the Somali regional authorities ».

A coordinating body

It is the United Nations Political Office for Somalia which is specifically responsible for “ coordination of the United Nations in the fight against piracy, including the Kampala process ».

A legal corpus on piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

The resolution clearly recalls that piracy is " a crime under the universal jurisdiction and therefore encourages States to prosecute those apprehended off the coast of Somalia and imprison them.

Each State must not only " criminalizes piracy in (its) domestic law “, but also continues” incitement to commit acts of piracy, facilitation of these crimes, conspiracy to commit them and attempts to do so ».

Prosecute the financiers and instigators

It is necessary " investigate and prosecute those who finance, plan, organize or derive illicit profits from hacker attacks. » Individuals and entities who « incite or purposely facilitate acts of piracy are themselves guilty under international law ».

The Security Council also affirms keep under review the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions against such individuals and entities if they meet the criteria for listing (provided in resolution 1844 (§8)).

A legal corpus for collection and exchange of evidence

States must also provide for internal procedures for safeguarding evidence that could be used in criminal proceedings to ensure the admissibility of such evidence ».

It is necessary " continue to improve the collection, preservation and transmission to the competent authorities of evidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery committed off the coast of Somalia ».

But states must go further. They must " pool evidence and information in their possession for the purpose of suppressing acts of piracy »

… And retention at sea

The UN calls on States such as UNODC and INTERPOL to examine an internal legal framework for the detention at sea of ​​pirates in order to "ensure that their laws provide for reasonable procedures, consistent with international human rights law." 'applicable man'

Dinstructions for seafarers

Interpol in particular – in liaison with the maritime world – has drawn up instructions to seafarers to “ maintain as they are, after the acts of piracy, the places where these acts were committed”

And, so that the lawsuits " brought against the authors of acts of piracy succeed ", must also " allow seafarers to testify in criminal proceedings ».

The fight against illegal fishing and illegal dumping

The resolution is also more imperative than the previous ones in the fight against illegal fishing and illegal dumping, including toxic dumping, asking Member States – or competent international organizations – to prosecute people under their jurisdiction who commit these offences. The Secretary General of the United Nations will have to submit a report on this subject within six months.

Read the full text of the resolution

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).