(Feb. 5, 2009) Nine countries in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea region have signed a Code of Conduct designed to increase cooperation against the piracy off the coast of Somalia. Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, and Yemen have agreed to work together to seize, investigate, and prosecute pirates operating in the area. Under the agreement there will be shared operations, including nominating law enforcement or other officials to serve on ships or aircraft belonging to partner signatory nations.
The Code will remain open for signature by other countries in the 21-nation region. The meeting at which the pact was adopted was also attended by representatives of Comoros, Egypt, France, Jordan, Oman, South Africa, and Sudan. Observers included other members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the United Nations; other U.N. agencies and other international organizations; and nations that have sent ships to protect vessels near Somalia, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Speaking about the agreement, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, the Secretary-General of the IMO, stated, “[t]he adoption of this instrument shows that countries in the region are willing to act concertedly and together, contributing to the ongoing efforts of the broader international community to fight the scourge of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area.” Mitropoulos went on to compare the Code to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (RECAAP), which was signed by 16 Asian nations in November 2004, and to state that he has “every faith” that the new Code will “bear fruit in the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships,” while acknowledging that in the long run, the solution to the problem must be achieved within Somalia itself.
The U.N. Security Council expressed its concern about piracy in the region in December 2008, unanimously calling for assistance from countries and regional organizations that have naval power and military aircraft to fight piracy. Recent victims of the pirates have included a Saudi Arabian oil tanker, a Ukrainian vessel with arms on board, and U.N. World Food Program ships. (Regional States Sign Pact to Fight Piracy off Somali Coast – UN, UN NEWS CENTRE, Jan. 30, 2009, available at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=29725&Cr=somalia&Cr1=pirates; see previous articleSecurity Council Resolution Empowers States Combating Piracy to Conduct Land Operations in Somalia, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Jan. 8, 2009, available at //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/WLB?disp3_914_text.)