Kingpins Enjoy Impunity

A confidential UN report, made available to Reuters, highlights the considerable disparity in the treatment of low-level operatives versus pirate kingpins in that the latter enjoy impunity. The report notes:

The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia said in a report to the Security Council, seen by Reuters, that senior pirate leaders were benefitting from high level protection from Somali authorities and were not being sufficiently targeted for arrest or sanction by international authorities.


The UN report said pirate leaders are now increasingly involved in land-based kidnap for ransom of foreign tourists and aid workers in northern Kenya and Somalia, as well as selling services as counter-piracy experts and consultants in ransom negotiations, and exploring “new types of criminal activity”.

“This evolution of the piracy business model is being driven largely by members of the Somali diaspora, whose foreign language skills and bank accounts are all valuable assets,” it said.


The [Monitoring] Group said that in spite of three international task forces and efforts by a dozen national governments in maritime counter-piracy efforts, serious legal obstacles remain that “impede the prosecution and sanctioning of pirate leaders and kingpins”.

Further to this last observation, a recent opinion by a U.S. District Court brings into question the ability to prosecute pirate kingpins who never set foot aboard a pirate vessel on the high seas. For reasons I will set forth in a forthcoming post, I think the court reached some faulty conclusions. But if the reasoning in that opinion gains traction, prosecution of high-level pirates under the framework set forth in UNCLOS will become increasingly untenable.

One Response to Kingpins Enjoy Impunity

  1. Omer says:

    The issue of impunity is writ large all across the Somali political and legal landscape. The impunity of alleged piracy kingpin is to be out along side the impunity of violent warlords, war criminals from the previous regimes and much of the TFG and Puntland leadership.

    I agree that the comparatively ruthless international prosecution of alleged pirates often minors or former child soldiers (many of whom were arrested at sea with no evidence they had been on a pirated vessel) is problematic when the impunity of the kingpins is so evident.

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