New UN piracy chief begins three-month tour

UN chief Ban Ki-moon's newly appointed adviser on Somali piracy is on a diplomatic odyssey to gather expert opinion on new legal options to fight the menace.

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PARIS // UN chief Ban Ki-moon's newly appointed adviser on Somali piracy embarked Friday on a three-month diplomatic odyssey to gather expert opinion on new legal options to fight the menace. Just one day after his appointment was announced, former French culture minister Jack Lang met top US State Department legal officials in Washington, at the start of a tour that will take him across Europe and Africa. Lang said that, at his request, Ban had defined the terms of his mission as a three-month trip to gather opinion on a new legal framework to better unite the various forces already fighting Somali piracy. Warships from several countries are targeting armed raiders operating in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Some vessels are under European Union or NATO command, others are independent members of a loose anti-piracy coalition. But there is no overall plan to prosecute pirates captured in international waters. Some have been charged in Kenya or the Seychelles, some brought back to Europe and some have simply been disarmed and released. "My goal is to analyse, examine and X-ray the situation to better understand things, and afterwards to suggest solutions," Lang said, adding that he planned to visit several European and African capitals. "We should not complain that several countries agreed to take part in this international effort. We should thank countries like Kenya, the Seychelles and some others that have made an important contribution," he said. He said he is not seeking a theoretical solution, but one that is "concrete, useful and positive in the fight against piracy", while adding: "I don't underestimate the legal, political and economic complexity of the situation." Lang said it was not clear whether he would be able to travel to the Somali capital Mogadishu itself, which is gripped by fighting between Islamist rebels and a beleaguered government protected by African Union peacekeepers. But he said he hoped his talks in London, Paris, Nairobi and several other capitals involved in the fight would allow him to present a report to Ban within around three months, give or take a few weeks. In April, the UN Security Council appealed to member states to strengthen their laws so that pirates seized off Somalia can be tried and imprisoned. Ban submitted a report to the council in July outlining options for dealing with jurisdictional issues in piracy cases, ranging from efforts to strengthen courts in the region to creating an international criminal tribunal. But he also proposed creating special courts for trying pirates. These could include an at-large Somali court, special courts within the judicial systems of surrounding states or even a regional court. Lang said he would not prejudge any option before carrying out his mission. * Agence France-Presse