© UN Photo – Tobin Jones – Mogadishu seaport (2012)

The mid-2000s saw a sharp rise in pirate attacks on ships transiting the Gulf of Aden. Since then, armed gangs have sought to extract financial gain by capturing vessels and their crews as they pass through the waters off the coast of Somalia and the wider Indian Ocean.

Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008), the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) was established on January 14, 2009 to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among States and organizations to suppress piracy off the coast of Somalia. This international forum has brought together more than 60 States and international organizations, all working towards the prevention of piracy off the Somali coast.

The CGPCS was composed until early 2014 of five working groups. WG2, chaired by Denmark until 2014, is dedicated to piracy related legal affairs. The legal affairs working group provides specific, practical and legally sound guidance to the CGPCS, States and organizations on all legal aspects of counter-piracy. Participants exchange information on on-going judicial activities, including specific court cases, as well as on relevant capacity building activities in the region. Through this exchange of information, the group contributes to a common approach to and understanding of legal piracy issues. WG2 has developed a legal toolbox for States wishing to improve their ability to prosecute pirates, including checklists to prosecution of suspected pirates, overview of impediments to prosecution, mechanisms for prosecution, applicable international law, transfer of convicted pirates, evidence collection, private armed guards and ship-riders, and human rights considerations.

The CGPCS decided at its plenary session, held in Paris on the 28th of January of 2014, to reorganize its structure. The purpose was to make the Contact Group more efficient and cost-effective. In what regards piracy legal issues, the WG2 has transformed itself into the Piracy Legal Forum of the CGPCS. The Forum is currently co-chaired by Portugal and Mauritius.