New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload
May 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload

By Mike Mount

Somali pirates captured on the high seas and prosecuted in other countries are now being transferred to a new prison in Somalia. It's a significant change for countries combating piracy but are seeing their own jail systems overwhelmed as the U.S. and other countries continue to catch and turn over pirates to countries willing to prosecute them.

The prison, located in the self-governed northern part of Somalia, accepted its first detainees at the end of March, according to U.S. State Department officials. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime is paying for the transport and the prison facility, according to U.S. State Department officials.

The first prisoners were transferred from the tiny island nation of Seychelles, located off the east coast of Africa, where small facilities have been quickly overcrowded. The new prison is in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-governed breakaway enclave of Somaliland. The region declared its independence in 1991 and has remained relatively violence-free and self-sustaining, unlike the southern part of the country. Somaliland's government will run the facility.

Seychelles, Kenya and Mauritius have offered to prosecute and hold pirate prisoners, but the capacity to keep up with the flood of new arrivals is overwhelming their jails, according to U.S. officials.

"Finding adequate prosecutorial venues and places to incarcerate the pirates is increasingly a challenge as we become victims of our own success in apprehending more pirates," according to a senior State Department official who briefed Security Clearance on anti-piracy issues.

"It could be a step in the right direction," said Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council. "And it is convenient for countries that catch them and do not want to hold them indefinitely. It looks good for the international community interested in fighting Somali piracy," she said.

But most governments understand that the solution to fix the piracy problem is on the ground and it will be a slow process once there is a plan.

Bruton agrees, but she thinks prosecuting and holding pirates is not going to be a long-term answer for fixing the piracy problem either.

"The pirates know what the odds are when they get into the business - four out of 10 pirates that go out on the water die. With that mindset, prosecution is not going to be a deterrent," Bruton said.

According to United Nation's statistics, Seychelles has undertaken 31 prosecutions and already convicted 22 suspects while Kenya is trying 69 suspects, having convicted 50.

The U.S. State Department and its partners in the U.N. Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia have been trying to persuade other countries with high stakes in the shipping industry to assist in prosecutions and imprisonment, according to a senior State Department official.

The official said the U.S. is also assisting as it has prosecuted and imprisoned a number of pirates that attacked U.S. ships off the Somali coast.

State Department officials said although no U.S. ship has been attacked by Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa region in over a year, the U.S. will still continue to prosecute and imprison pirates in the U.S. when needed.

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  14. Maik

    When I originally heard about this on Wattpad I will admit that the first thing I felt was sheer terorr. Why? Because I have a lot of stuff online and a lot of time invested in various sites. I watch my friend's videos on Youtube, I read various stories on Wattpad and post my own, I even blog about various items, books or games that I've felt strongly about. But if this goes through, where does that leave me?Where do they draw the line between what is right to use and what isn't?Then there's the question of what happens when you remove all these sites where creative innovations are taking place. Are you going to just stunt the growth we're making and the connections to other people that we're forming just because a few companies are afraid of infringement (sometimes with good reason admittedly) but when we have yet to decide where the lines should be drawn in this giant grey area that we have yet to fully comprehend?To me it just seems like a shot in the dark to fix a problem that people with money are supporting. The thing is, with so many internet users getting upset with this, is this problem' really that bad? From what I read in the article, I certainly don't think that this is the time to be focusing on this. We have more important issues to deal with (like the budget which I highly doubt can use added strain).Maybe in a few years when we've decided what equals copyright infringement and what equals new material we should examine this bill again. Now though? Well, to me it seems like a red herring and more than a little premature/trivial.Then again, I'm rather biased so perhaps the people in the government can see something I can't. That will not, however, change the fact that I highly hope that this bill falls flat.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
  15. jimstar

    The Julius Caesar method of dealing with pirates is attractive. Check out how he dealt with them.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  16. mos58

    thanks for sending them back home and when they get there its matter of time before they hit back the sea again and their thang....west and asian should stop exploiting somalian waters and resources and stop pretending your navies are there to help securitywise to keep indian ocean and red sea safe... when in reality all they are doing is dumping toxics waste, illegal oil exploration and illegal fishing...

    May 8, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
  17. jkegor

    Unpaid UN parking tickets? Don't ticket, tow it. If ticket and tow fee unpaid in 3 months, sell it.

    May 8, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
  18. Bobby Dias

    New place is a half-way house to freedom. By the way, Bill Clinton had Somalia's leader put in power by US troops- the Somalia leader that started the kidnappings.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:19 am | Reply

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.


    May 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  20. Jeff

    We have just recently transitted through this region, and i can tell you first hand that it is a very scary expensive exercise. We had to take on board 4 armed exSAS soldiers with us, along with 300 sandbags and razor wire. Our watchkeeping crew had to wear helmets and flack jackets while on watch in the wheelhouse. We were trailed by 12 skiffs for an hour; it was a Mexican standoff, as our security guards are not allowed to shoot until the other party raises a weapon towards them, luckily there was no skirmish. An unarmed ship in our convoy was however captured 1 mile ahead of us, Sadly for them, because they did not have a 'safe room', it became a hostage situation, and the warship could only escort them back to Somalia with the pirates in charge.
    The problem is very real, and there is no simple solution, as we cant simply avoid the area. All you armchair experts, take it from me, it is REAL and it is not a simple problem with a simple solution.

    May 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Reply
    • Aden

      Jeff – Thanks for a very insightful analysis of the situation. Ironically I was briefly involved in the brokering of maritime security and ship owners so it really is good to hear that the process is working on the ground. Overall I think this situation will only be resolved with an effective Somali state without it chaos will continue. 2012 and pirates ey! funny world i tell you

      May 8, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
      • Jeff

        I used to think the simpler solution would be to have a charted corridor that was off limits to non approved vessels, Unfortunately the genuine fisherman in skiffs do not have any GPS navigation and would always wander unaware into this corridor. You cant simply arm all vessels, as they cant then berth in most countries with these firearms. The ex-soldiers and firarms that we took on board were done from a security mothership further up in the Red Sea, they then exited to another mothership 4 days later. If you look at the piracy map, you will get a good idea of how vast the area is that the pirates operate in-

        May 8, 2012 at 5:18 am |
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  21. richp

    The UN is paying for a prison ??? Geeze, we can't even get them to pay for their $16 million dollars worth of parking tickets in NYC....

    May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
    • BRBSanDiego

      Yeah – and guess who pays for 90% of the UN expenditures. You do – stupid American taxpayer. Shoot them; don't house them. A 9mm round is only 60 cents.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
      • NW

        Sorry but US doesn't. A) US owe UN $$$ dued. B) US has been reducing the contribution. C) there is a cap on how much a country contributes.

        Nevertheless expecting UN to make payment on-time is like expecting a financially bankcrupted person to pay his/her bill. They owe us, in HK Vietnamese boat ppl management fee for over 10 years. I am not certain our government gave up and wrote it off or what... And parking fee, thatz one very annoying thing!!!

        May 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  22. byebye

    Pirates would make great fertilizer.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • Cooze

      So would you.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Reply
      • Bobby Dias

        Be real- the dictator that runs Somalia is the same one that has been protecting the pirates all these years since President Bill Clinton took out the elected president and put in this corrupt clown.

        May 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  23. Curt

    2012 the only pirate you will see is a black one.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • Walther Shmitstein

      Racist pig. Staying warm in your white sheet and hood?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
    • cas

      Actually, if you took some time to check facts rather than regurgitating the perceptions built in your little bubble....then maybe just maybe you will come a little less informed. Piracy is increasing globally, and here is the surprise, they are not all Africans (black)!....but then that will just make you move over to the next thing that will quench your never ending bigotry....a sad breathing creature you must be...

      May 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
      • jack

        You are a wack.....they are all black..

        May 8, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Rick

      Have to agree, as the White-African president of the USA is hijacking the American way of life.

      May 8, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
      • Bobby Dias

        I did not say anything about race- piracy is piracy no matter what the skin color is,but for you to bring up the subject-Barack and Michelle Obama do have long term goals of killing of other races.

        May 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • whatever

      shutup u racist basterd

      May 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
      • Bobby Dias

        Not recognized because the elected government was thrown out by Bill Clinton.

        May 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  24. Andy

    Don't waste time putting them in prison. Give them each a pair of water wings and if they can swim back to Somalia, they can live to pirate again.

    May 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • danno

      They should walk the plank with a concrete block

      May 8, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
  25. TheMovieFan

    If it were legal under international agreements, I'd have a prison built in Antarctica.

    May 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • Bobby Dias

      TheMovieFan – there is no "International Agreements" Those that say that to you want to fool you into not doing something or fool you into doing something.

      May 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  26. b2ux

    while my first thought is kill them and spare the world look at they why factor most of them are doing it so they and there damilies can eat period food is more important feed them and you wont have this problem

    May 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
    • Eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

      The only problem with your argument is that much of the piracy is exploitatively funded by Europeans, who provide arms, etc, and the net to the pirates isn't all that great.

      Doesn't matter. Pirates are pirates, they have chosen to do their thing, and it is one of the very few crimes for which I have no sympathy whatsoever.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        Eric, if you have3 first hand knowledge and have been a "sailor", why do you still call merchant shipping "sailing". The Somalians are picking on Eric and he would like his mother to tell them to stop it.

        May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
      • Eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

        My mother's long dead, thank you very much. Private yacht owners have been victimized both in Somalia and in various south seas archipelagos. Many are now going armed, which is NOT a good situation. People who operate such boats are called "sailors." So are the hands working on commercial ships. Perhaps you have a secondary grasp of English?

        You should avoid personal attacks in writing political commentary, and if that sort of behavior is the best you can do, well, good luck to you. May you swim safely ashore when YOU are the victim of pirates.

        May 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
      • Mike

        Dear Somalia, please stop picking on my dear friend Eric. It hurts his feelings that he cannot go "sailing" off the coast of your war-torn and poverty stricken country.

        May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
      • Berman

        Sorry Mike, but you're wrong here. Sailing/Sailors are the proper terms. For example, every single enlisted person in the US Navy is called a "sailor".

        May 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  27. Eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

    Of course, tossing them overboard is quicker, faster, cheaper and historically one of two effective deterrents. No prison needed.

    Oh? The second deterrent? burning out their nests, as Stephen Decatur did. More effective, harder to get the gumption to do it these days.

    May 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • Beaker Surfer

      Eric Hatch read your words, consider them carefully what you so gleefully without any fear post for the world to read. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself growing up in Somalia and consider for a moment why the pirates do what they have done. People in desparate situations will take desparate measures. No I am not excusing them to committ reckless violence on others with no consequences, but these people in Somalia who have committed crimes do so for a reason one of which you may really struggle to comprehend. If your only solution you would like to suggest to the world is spiteful killing by drowning with no regard to understand why the problem exists and what could be done, then I respectfully ask you to rather shut your trap and be quiet. Now go back to your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and blue chip cookies.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
      • Eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

        Poverty does not justify murder, theft, and abandonment. I have been a sailor much of my life, and I know full what unarmed merchantmen and ordinary sailors face when a machine-gun or rpg-laden speedboat comes up and threatens or actually fires on them.

        While I am sorry for the religious conflicts, lousy education, miserable diet, tribal factionalism, and plain old greed that have induced so many to turn to piracy, these conditions do not excuse conduct that all nations have found disgusting and unacceptable since the early years of seafaring.'

        There's nothing gleeful about my attitude. I want piracy stopped, period. Getting rid of those who attempt it is, I repeat, an effective, timely, and inexpensive approach. It is not humane. Neither are pirates.

        May 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
      • Berman

        Essentially you just wrote. "I'm not excusing piracy, but here's a whole paragraph with excuses for piracy".

        May 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • musolini

      hang them... as soon as they´re captured just hang them all.... before this virus spreads to the rest of the world... remember desperate people need to have instrituted desperate measures to detain them there is no other way

      May 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  28. patch vader

    There is a glimmer of an exceptional idea here. How about a somali prison as the final depository for those whose criminality is beyond redemption or reform. That would be a win/win for both the tiny govt of north somalia and for our prison system.
    The rest of south somalia can remain a drone testing and training range.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  29. David Bluesnow

    Well it is good there will be new prison in somalia. It will create more jobs.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  30. David Bluesnow

    The piracy in somalia started as a result of westerners' stealing fishes from the somalian side of the sea 😉

    May 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • YardFather

      Thank you, someone finally opened there eyes to the truth. I thought i was the only one. 🙂

      May 8, 2012 at 2:49 am | Reply
  31. just saying

    Somaliland...seriously? couldn't come up with a better name? sounds like something i would go tour at a six flags.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
    • amy

      ...with my kids

      May 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  32. Alex Povolotski

    What a waster of taxpayer's money! Why no execute them on the spot or blow their boats out of the water? Nobody would even notice 🙂

    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • Aaron

      What a refined sense of human dignity. That certainly sets you apart from warlords who kill people when it saves them money...

      May 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
      • Beaker Surfer

        Aaron, people like Alex Povolotski are unfortunately simply reflective of the dispair, ignorance, indifference and disrespect that is so prevelant in our human soceity right now. Although I am generally an optimist and feel soceity improves over time, it is the sad posts of people like Alex and many more which remind me that soceity is not really as good as we often believe. Sad but true

        May 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  33. Carlos

    This would be a wonderful training camp for future Pirates /Terrorist, and supported by non-Muslin countries. There should be a class ready to graduate this December. But, I believe there is a new Rule of Engagement for this part of the world, Take no prisoner.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:40 am | Reply
  34. Tosspot

    The photo kind of reminds me of a Howard Pyle illustration.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  35. Rex Feral

    If you just make them swim from the Seychelles to the prison in Somlia then there will no overcrowding.

    May 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  36. Dumbeldore3000

    Throw them overboard, Ahoy! You yellow-bellied drivelswigger! Arrr!

    May 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply


    May 7, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply
    • Roronoa Zoro

      Nice one Luffy..

      May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
  38. Zebon

    @USMCDOG – you make a good point, but I wouldn't wait around for the UN to find their nutz. An issue as raw as this is not their forte'. The US Navy should lead up an international flotilla of destroyers and patrol boats and sink pirates whenever and wherever they are found. Should any ask to be rescued, then sure take them somewhere for prosecution. My guess, is most will go down with the ships.

    May 7, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply
  39. Chris

    Do they get to keep their parrots?

    May 7, 2012 at 8:44 am | Reply
  40. Geoffrey hamilton

    Why are we arresting them? When in the history of piracy on the high seas have pirates ever been arrested and not just executed?

    May 7, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
    • DAVID

      I agreed with your method

      May 7, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
    • archchuzzlewit

      Actually, if I'm not mistaken it was somewhat common practice to capture pirates and bring them back for trial/execution, at least for the more well known pirates.

      May 7, 2012 at 10:40 am | Reply
  41. Jeff

    I suppose there will soon be protests and claims that an in-proportionate amount of the prisoner detainees are black.

    May 7, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
  42. crowkilla

    Given that the prison is funded by the UN, I bet the conditions are better there than most places in the country.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:46 am | Reply
    • Chris

      I was thinking the same thing. Where do you get away to the best greens and spas in Somaliland...Pirates' Cove. No wait, I meant prision, Pirates' Prison.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • Roscoe Chait

      You are probably right. I thought it would be more like Devil's Island or Alcatraz.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:40 am | Reply
  43. Gideodog

    Send Donald Trumps kid to big game hunt Pirates-he claims to be a hunter. We get rid of one or both, win/win.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:21 am | Reply
  44. catman

    Hang them, then burn them, then bomb their home country.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply
    • Tosspot

      Such a pleasant fellow.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply

    I believe that still on the british books piracy is a death sentance either at sea or on a ship , so what i am saying is , the high sea thugs should be killed . period

    May 7, 2012 at 7:03 am | Reply
    • WellHello

      "In 1790 Congress enacted the first substantive antipiracy law, a broad ban on murder and Robbery at sea that carried the death penalty. In 1818, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law was limited to crimes involving U.S. citizens: U.S. jurisdiction did not cover foreigners whose piracy targeted other foreigners (United States v. Palmer, 16 U.S. [3 Wheat.] 610). A year later, in 1819, Congress responded by passing an antipiracy law to extend U.S. jurisdiction over pirates of all nationalities."

      May 7, 2012 at 7:34 am | Reply

    The picture reminds me of the Star Wars scene of the Sand People.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply
    • usmcdog

      just alot of water and no sand 😛

      May 7, 2012 at 7:54 am | Reply
      • Julio

        This entire topic is cinousfng. Both parties are right on their slant of this issue, kind of. Internet companies already use online restriction to sites. Have you ever seen the little yellow bar at the top? My Internet firewall, Norton, would over power my web browser because the site that I was using wasn't legitimate, or so Norton deemed so. I would have to rework my settings in my firewall and computer to allow me to Accept, the access to the site, which could cause viruses to my computer. And of course it did. I know that this sounds like a conspiracy, but this is true for Hewlett Packard (I know from experience). The computer is ruined within a year of using the web browser for illegal downloading, then in a year I have to purchase a new one. I can guarantee that if American's were not allowed to use our computer's for what we want, we would not be able to put so much on it and ruin the hardware. In turn, I can guarantee there will be a drop in sales with consumer grade computers. So, I am interested in what computer companies have to say about this problem. But on the other hand, free speech online? That's hardly the problem. That's just sugar coating the issue. The problem is people not making enough money. They don't care what you say or how you say it. You can say what you want, you can download what you want, you can look at what you want, but there's a price for everything. If you build it, they will come. What's going to happen from all this is internet companies are going to jack up the prices, (more than the prices they are raping us with now), and then everyone can be happy. Its going to be like advertising companies and web browsers. The companies will keep track of computer web browsing, and what your looking at will define a price from internet companies. Thus, if any of the cry baby publishing companies own rights to content, the internet companies will give a portion of their money to those other companies. Its a win-win, and that's why we have Occupy Wall Street. Because we the consumer, can't get ahead, only major corporations can. Oh, what's great about this is, at least they will have an acceptance agreement but who reads those anyway.

        August 1, 2012 at 5:19 am |
      • Bobby

        Julio- They would never make enough money to stop what they are doing. When they steal you must stop them not understand them.

        August 1, 2012 at 9:06 am |

    yeap, thats it, it has catch up with pirates.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:35 am | Reply
  48. Ah Sol

    Oh, yes, this is such a good "solution", the reason there were so many pirates around the Horn was because there weren't enough prisons in the area.
    Yeah, brilliant.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:30 am | Reply
  49. fusa

    Trial at sea, execution at sea. Tape the whole thing and broadcast 24/7 on Samali airwaves.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:28 am | Reply
    • Allan

      Pirates don't have TV so broadcasting pictures of an execution would be useless.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:35 am | Reply
    • Tosspot

      Most people beat-off to porn. There's always an exception, I suppose.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  50. thekenyan

    don't really agree with this. the pirates should be tried in the countries where the ships they hijacked or the sailors they held captive come from.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:15 am | Reply
    • usmcdog

      That may be right, but some countries have differant laws. Some may execute pirates others may not, UN should probably take control and get it centralized. The problem I see with the UN is that it seems to be all bark and no bite. They seem to have gotten some baby teeth every now and then though. The UN could be so much better, hopefully in the long run.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
      • Burgo

        I agree the UN could do better yet control freak nations like USA fund & run it ... never going to work while that happens

        May 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  51. Ron

    I'd execute them.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:28 am | Reply
  52. justmeanddog

    Piracy will stop when 10 out of 10 Pirates who go to Sea die.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:14 am | Reply
    • woody

      Simple and effective.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:04 am | Reply
  53. Deanne Kazel

    I wonder how long before corruption takes over as a lot of these pirates have millions stored away?

    May 7, 2012 at 4:05 am | Reply
    • skeiron

      Those who have millions, certainly won't risk their lives at sea...

      May 7, 2012 at 6:13 am | Reply
    • archchuzzlewit

      I find it hard to believe that "a lot" of pirates have "millions" lying around.

      May 7, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
      • Agha Ata

        Lets join them. 🙂

        May 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  54. fromthefourthcorner

    Interesting. I wonder if this is a step in the direction of Somaliland getting recognised by other states?

    May 7, 2012 at 3:16 am | Reply
    • Eric Hatch (Loveland OH)

      Recognized for what? There is no state to speak of, no infrastructure, but plenty of SUVs, RPGs, fat cats, hunger, disease, and piracy. Statehood is not something the Somalis have managed to make work for them.

      I think this prison is an attempt by 1st world states to avoid having to go in and clean house. It's mealy-mouthed, expensive, and absurd, but, then, so is the whole existence of piracy in a modern world.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
      • fromthefourthcorner

        Somaliland is far from perfect but is much closer to being a functioning state than the rest of Somalia, yet its independence is not recognised by other countires/IGOs. If it was then it could be more well-supported and robust and help to stabilise the region. Clearly the pre-requisites for a functioning state are not present in the rest of Somalia but why throw the baby out with the bath water? Recognise Somaliland, send aid and international assistance, and the pirates will have less places to hide

        May 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

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