Britain funds Seychelles anti-piracy plan

Feb. 23, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LONDON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Britain said this week it will spend $870,000 to fund an anti-piracy intelligence center in the Seychelles to help with international policing efforts.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the measure Tuesday in London, saying it will be used to target "pirate kingpins" operating out of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

"The establishment of a new intelligence coordination center will allow the international community to target the kingpins of piracy and ensure piracy does not pay," Hague said.

The new Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Center will be used to collect and disseminate intelligence about pirate activity to tactical officers in the Gulf of Aden, then assemble obtained evidence and make it usable in court prosecutions.

That way, pirate gang leaders based on land can better be brought to justice, Hague said.

"For too long, the international community has focused its efforts on the young desperate men who are sent out to sea, without seeking to hold to account those who finance and enable huge pirate operations," he said.

The new intelligence center, however, "will ensure that is no longer the case."

Also joining to fund its start-up are Interpol as well as the Seychelles and Dutch governments.

Hague, speaking before the Thursday opening of the London Conference on Somalia, said the intelligence center will be operational "in time for the seasonal increase in pirate activity."

Piracy around the Horn of Africa has resulted in losses to the world economy of nearly $7 billion in 2011 -- much of it spent to protect ships from hijackings, the Voice of America reported. Some $2.7 billion was poured into increased fuel costs, needed to speed ships through suspected pirate areas.

One of the chief problems facing the anti-piracy efforts has been the lack of clear jurisdiction in which to capture and try accused hijackers.

With more than 1,000 suspected Somali hijackers awaiting trial in different countries, the British government has refused to send them to England to face trial and instead has been funding a series of improvements for the Seychelles' legal and prison system, The Guardian reported.

But prison capacity on the islands is very small.

Speaking of the upcoming 50-nation conference on the problems facing Somalia, Hague said: "We particularly want to see an end to pirates being captured and then released because there is no where to prosecute and imprison them. We hope that conference participants will agree a commitment to do more to increase judicial capacity in Somalia and the wider region."

A draft of the London Conference's agenda was leaked to the Somali media, including the online newspaper the Somaliland Sun, which posted its contents. The document indicated that on the issue of piracy, the participants have agreed to have trials for captured suspects in the Seychelles and Mauritius.

If convicted, the document said, the detainees would be transferred to "internationally certified prisons" in the autonomous Somalia regions of Puntland and Somaliland.

"These arrangements will be extended, to ensure a virtuous and effective circle of arrest, trial and imprisonment from sea to Somalia," it said.

The EU naval task force police the Gulf of Aden -- EU NAVFOR -- is to continue its anti-piracy mission in the area until the end of year.

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