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UK May Hold Pirates Without Legal Authority, UK Guantanamo Bay Alleged, UN Silent

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- As Somali pirates have recently seized ten ships including a Saudi super tanker, it emerges that even those pirates who are caught are in a legal limbo that neither the UN Security Council nor its Permanent Five members have been able to address. In front of the Council on Thursday, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador John Sawers to confirm that the UK is holding Somali pirates, under what legal authority, and what will be done about the issue. Ambassador Sawers said, "I am not in a position to answer specific questions about that." 

  Sawers went on to say that the UK is "playing a leading role in the elimination of piracy from the coast of Somalia." The UK's own BBC has reported that the UK is holding pirates, and is finally trying to put them on trial in Kenya. Why Kenya? And in the interim, what is the legal authority under which the UK has held these captives?  Could this be, to coin a phrase, a little UK Guantanamo Bay?

  This is not to imply that pirates should not be put on trial and imprisoned. But shouldn't a country like the UK be able to publicly articulate the legal basis for the people it holds in custody?

UN's Gambari and UK's Sawers and Miliband, imprisoned pirates and legal authority not shown

  While in the past the Council has consider the coasts of Somalia, the focus has only been on pirates -- and ineffectively at that -- not on fishing violations by EU and other OECD states, nor the dumping of toxic waste.

While the Council on Thursday morning passed another resolution on Somalia, it was not about piracy. Rather it created a framework to later impose sanctions, on "those who block humanitarian access to victims," as French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert put it.

  After that vote, a briefing was scheduled by the UN Department of Political Affairs' Haile Menkerios, who was also in the absence of DPA chief Lynn Pascoe slated to brief on Zimbabwe and Western Sahara. The UN Secretariat has not said where Pascoe in fact is; Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's Office on Wednesday told Inner City Press that, contrary to the organization's statements, no request for action has been received from the International Chamber of Shipping and InterCargo. Several Ambassadors asked, given all these conflicts, where is Ban Ki-moon?

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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