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UN announces opening of new Kenya courtroom for piracy trials

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] on Friday announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom in Kenya [press release] that will hear maritime piracy cases as well as cases involving other serious criminal offenses. The courtroom, opened on Thursday, was funded through contributions the UNODC received from donor states including Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the EU and the US. The UNODC announced last week [JURIST report] that donor states will spend more than USD $9.3 million to fund courts in Kenya and Seychelles that prosecute suspected Somali pirates [JURIST news archive]. The Kenyan government announced in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system and the lack of support that had been promised by the international community. Kenya resumed the adjudication of piracy cases in May after being reassured it would receive additional support. Kenya currently has 123 suspected pirates awaiting trial, the highest number of any country that has agreed to hear piracy cases. Kenyan courts have convicted and sentenced 18 pirates since agreeing to assist in the prosecution of piracy cases. A spokesperson for the UNODC praised Kenya's role in fighting piracy stating, "Kenya has taken on a heavy burden in dealing with a crime that affects the entire international community."

The international community has been supporting actions taken against maritime piracy. The UNODC announced in May that Seychelles would create [JURIST report] a UN-supported center to prosecute suspected pirates. In April, the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. The Security Council resolution came the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia. The US is also involved in the prosecution of pirates. In May, nine Somali men accused of piracy and other charges by federal prosecutors pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at their arraignment. Trials for the accused pirates are scheduled for July but may be delayed until September.

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