UN agency urges prosecution to end impunity for drug trafficking on high seas

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. Photo: UNODC

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. Photo: UNODC

New York, 9 September 2014 – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) hosted a special event on the rise of narcotics trafficking on maritime southern routes, particularly the Indian Ocean, advocating that drug traffickers caught in international waters be prosecuted.

Opening the event, “Success of the Piracy Prosecution Model: A Blueprint to End Impunity at Sea,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov explained that the inability to prosecute traffickers detected on the high seas remain a major challenge.

“As we have seen, drug seizures alone have not deterred the criminals, who remain at large due to a lack of enforcement capacity. If we want to contain the problem of heroin trafficking through the Indian Ocean, we need to explore options for prosecuting drug traffickers,” he stressed in a press release on the event.

The Executive Directive noted that even though the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) had seized around 4,200 kilograms of heroin in the past eighteen months during counter-piracy and counter-terrorism missions in waters off of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, it was forced to set the traffickers free because the seizures occurred in international waters.

To prevent a culture of impunity from flourishing on the high seas, Mr. Fedotov pointed out that UNODC’s Maritime Crime Programme was developing programmes in Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Seychelles, including information sharing, joint investigations and legal responses.

“In doing so,” he elaborated “UNODC is seeking to leverage its invaluable experience of working with East African States to successfully prosecute and incarcerate pirates.” Over the last four years, there has been a dramatic shift towards the southern route for delivering heroin and other drugs by sea of to Africa, Europe and Asia. Narcotics are sailed by dhows from the Makran coast, and then transferred to smaller vessels destined for the East African coast.

Joel Morgan, Seychelles Minister of Home Affairs said, “Seychelles intends to leverage its successful counter-piracy programme to confront transnational organized crime, especially trafficking of illicit drugs and weapons. Central to this work is the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea, which has a wealth of experience coordinating and analysing information from different law enforcement and military intelligence centers around the world.”