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Ambassador Rice at U.N. Debate on Combating Piracy

19 November 2012

November 19, 2012


Remarks by Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Piracy

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Deputy Secretary General Eliasson, for your briefing. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his most recent report on piracy.

The international community has made sustained efforts to combat piracy, and the integrated, multi-dimensional approach we have pursued together in partnership with the private sector has borne fruit. The number of pirate attacks is dropping rapidly, and pirates are holding fewer hostages. The United Nations and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia deserve special thanks for building bridges among the key actors to facilitate this progress.

While the situation has improved dramatically, even one hostage is indeed too many. We offer our deepest sympathy for kidnapped seafarers and the suffering of their families, and we call for their immediate release. We note in particular the crew of the M/V Iceberg who were long ago abandoned and have been in captivity now almost three years. We also support the shipping industry’s provision of all necessary assistance to seafarers after their release.

Effectively countering piracy requires action on multiple fronts. Identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who lead, manage, and finance the pirate enterprise are central to our efforts. These individuals are ultimately responsible for hostage-taking and other piracy-related threats to seafarers. We are working in close coordination with our international partners to connect and promote information sharing among law enforcement communities, intelligence agencies, and financial experts to prosecute pirate conspirators and disrupt their operations.

In addition, specifically in the Somalia context, the international community can do more to enhance Somali capacity and encourage their active involvement in efforts to prosecute and incarcerate suspected pirates. We continue to support the work of the UN-managed Trust Fund to Support the Initiatives of States to Counter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which has funded — among other projects — the construction of prisons, the training of judicial officials, and the purchase of equipment for law enforcement in Somalia. We appreciate the important work underway by UNODC, UNDP, and others to assist Somalia and regional states in conducting piracy prosecutions as well as building and responsibly operating suitable and sufficient prisons.

We thank, among others, the Government of the Seychelles for its willingness to host a regional prosecution center contingent on the establishment of an effective post-trial transfer framework, and welcome the opening this year of its Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Center. We also thank the Government of Kenya for its recent prosecutorial efforts and note its pioneering use of technology to cope with the logistical challenges these cases present.

Somalia must do its part as well. Having completed its transition, adopted a new provisional constitution, and elected a new parliament and president, Somalia is poised to take greater action to counter piracy. In particular, we urge the new Somali authorities to pass and enact appropriate anti-piracy legislation. The establishment of a Somali exclusive economic zone consistent with the Law of the Sea Convention is also needed.

As the international community works to put pirate financiers and facilitators out of business and help bring them to justice on land, the shipping industry should continue to make merchant ships harder targets to attack at sea. Clearly, preventing pirate attacks is a more effective and efficient way to protect human life and property than interrupting attacks in progress or rescuing hostages after an attack. There are not enough naval forces to maintain sufficient presence throughout the high-risk ocean areas to deter or defeat all pirate attacks. Routine implementation of best management practices and the responsible use of armed security personnel are vital adjuncts to national and coalition naval patrols. We know that applying best management practices on vessels transiting high-risk waters greatly reduces the likelihood of a successful attack.

Further, to date, not a single ship employing privately contracted armed security personnel has been successfully pirated. For certain ships determined to be at high risk, onboard armed security, including privately contracted personnel, can be a helpful and appropriate defensive measure if so assessed by the vessel’s operator. The United States has mandated the deployment of best management practices on U.S. flagged vessels sailing in high risk waters and established requirements and guidance for U.S. ships when the owner or operator determines armed security is needed. We will continue to work with fellow International Maritime Organization Member States along with labor and industry representatives on the development of appropriate standards.

Mr. President, the international community, in partnership with the private sector, has made impressive strides towards reducing the scourge of piracy. But our gains are not irreversible, and we cannot let up. We look forward to continued cooperation with and support from our international partners, action by private industry, and a sustained commitment by this Council to ensure that seafarers are protected, that international commerce is no longer threatened, and that the guilty are brought to justice.

Thank you, Mr. President.