In March, the United States turned over to the Republic of Seychelles 15 suspected Somali pirates for prosecution in connection with an attempted January 5 attack on the M/V Sunshine in the northern Arabian Sea and the abduction of 13 Iranian mariners rescued by the U.S. Navy aboard their captured fishing vessel Al Molai. The successful resolution of this incident marks another step forward in working with our international partners to see that pirates are brought to justice and underscores our ongoing commitment to promoting freedom of navigation worldwide.
As part of the United States' commitment to working with the international community in countering piracy, I traveled last week to New York City to lead the U.S. delegation at a meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. In January 2009, following UN Security Resolution 1851, the United States helped establish the Contact Group, an ad hoc, voluntary group of close to 70 nations and international organizations that meets three times a year to coordinate national and international counter-piracy actions.
Through the Contact Group, the United States has focused on five key counter-piracy challenges:
• Coordinating multinational naval patrols off the Horn of Africa, in partnership with more than 20 nations, including naval ships from Combined Task Force 151, EU Counter Piracy Naval Forces' (EUNAVFOR) Operation Atalanta, and NATO's Operation Ocean Shield, as well as naval ships on national tasking from several nations, including Japan, India, China, and Russia;
• Developing and promoting effective self-protection measures to discourage pirates from boarding vessels, with support from the shipping industry and the International Maritime Organization;
• Bringing pirates to justice by prosecuting suspected pirates and incarcerating those convicted, and encouraging other nations to do so as well;
• Discouraging the payment of ransoms, which encourages further pirate attacks; and
• Developing ways to disrupt the pirates' financial networks, using tools similar to those used effectively against other forms of transnational organized crime.
In a communique following the meeting, the Contact Group:
• Recognized steps taken toward the development of counter-piracy messaging guidelines and continued efforts to develop effective strategic communications, including the use of social media;
• Placed a priority on prosecutions and imprisonment as a deterrent to piracy;
• Reiterated the importance of bringing suspected pirates to trial, including high-level suspects, and detaining those convicted, in Somalia as well as other nations in the region;
• Called on the international community, including the global maritime industry, to make continued efforts to facilitate more effective prosecutions of pirates; and
• Attributed the low success rate of attacks to many factors, including the application of best management practices by the shipping industry, the continuing naval presence, and the use of military vessel protection detachments and privately contracted armed security personnel.
While it is essential that nations bring pirates and their financiers and facilitators to justice, we recognize that continued long-term diplomatic engagement in Somalia will be essential to further progress in countering piracy. Ultimately, the problem of piracy will not be resolved until stability is restored in Somalia. To that end, the United States is committed to supporting the Djibouti Peace Process, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and other local and regional organizations who also want to discourage this criminal enterprise, which interferes with political reconciliation and economic recovery from decades of civil war in Somalia.
As Secretary Clinton noted at the February 23 London Conference on Somalia, the United States supports programs that strengthen the Somali judicial system so it can tackle piracy domestically. We will continue to deliver support of all kinds and to help build a broad and durable partnership with both the Somali Government and people.