"Somali pirates should be tried under watch of UN," Turkey says

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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia should be prosecuted under the supervision of the United Nations, according to a letter sent by Turkey to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and made public here on Wednesday.

In the letter, Turkey's permanent representative to the UN, Ertugrul Apakan, suggested the formation of a judicial system to punish perpetrators and deter potential pirates from a life of criminality.

"Turkey believes that it would be useful if a mechanism is put in place in one of the countries of the region, under the supervision of the United Nations, to effectively prosecute persons suspected of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia," said Apakan.

Currently, no clear legal regime exists to hold pirates off the coast of Somalia accountable. Normally, under the United Nations' Law of the Sea Treaty, Somalia would try its citizens. But Somalia never ratified the treaty, and is largely deemed a lawless nation without a viable government.

To make do, countries like the United States and Britain have signed Memorandums of Understanding with the Kenyan court system to try suspected pirates in a kind of Hague international tribune.

But without a clear international legal framework, many countries, like Turkey, are calling for the United Nations to coordinate a comprehensive judicial mechanism.

The increase in the number of pirate attacks in 2009 indicates the international community's failure to curb a growing threat to peace and security, said Apakan.

"One of the main factors is undoubtedly the lack of capacity to detain and punish the perpetrators that are apprehended," he said.

In 2009, pirates in the Gulf of Aden attacked 214 vessels, resulting in 47 hijackings, according to the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau. As of Dec. 29, 12 of those ships, with a total of 263 crew members, were being held for ransom.

In comparison, 111 ships were attacked in the region in 2008, according to the maritime bureau.

Apakan said that thus far, four vessels owned by Turkish citizens and with Turkish crews have been kidnapped and held hostage by pirates while several other Turkish vessels have survived pirate attacks.

"Being among those countries suffering from this scourge, Turkey deplores and condemns these acts," he said.

Turkey is a founding member of the UN's Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which was created on Jan. 14, 2009.