INTERPOL is to provide essential equipment and training to law enforcement across East African countries tackling maritime piracy as part of a EUR 1.6 million project funded by the European Commission.
A significant part of the funding will be dedicated to developing forensic and investigative capacity in the Seychelles, which has found itself increasingly on the frontline as the hub for international counter-piracy operations and prosecutions.
A gap analysis conducted by INTERPOL at the request of the Seychelles’ Minister for Internal Affairs Mr Joel Morgan, identified three critical development needs: forensic facilities, criminal investigations and analytical capabilities, areas in which INTERPOL is now actively partnering with the Seychelles.
The first phase of the 20-month project will see the provision of an Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to the Scientific Support and Criminal Records Bureau (SSCRB) of the Seychelles Police, which will significantly enhance the digitization of the fingerprint identification process, and especially to enable swifter sharing of this information on an international level via INTERPOL to help identify suspected pirates.
President of the Republic of the Seychelles James Alix Michel said: “I greatly welcome this initiative by INTERPOL, in partnership with Seychelles and the European Commission, in helping to develop further professional counter-piracy capacity in the region. Seychelles is fully committed to working with INTERPOL, in keeping with the UN resolution 1950, to help create a sustainable response to the transnational threat of piracy.”
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, said “Piracy off the Horn of Africa is affecting seriously the safety of maritime traffic in the Indian Ocean as well as security and stability in the wider region. More than two years after its launch, EUNAVFOR-Atalanta has had an important impact. But the roots of the problem of piracy lie on the land and the EU is working to develop a comprehensive approach. Immigration, smuggling and trafficking are major related concerns. I welcome this INTERPOL-EU project, which aims to facilitate the identification and traceability of pirates and their possible prosecution.”
“The focus of the INTERPOL project is to ensure that police professionals have the forensic tools and training they need in order to carry out investigations into maritime piracy and other crimes as effectively as possible,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
“The essential role to be played by law enforcement, particularly that of INTERPOL and Europol, in combating maritime piracy has been recognized by the United Nations and the European Union and we are committed to supporting police in our member countries tackle what is at its core, a transnational crime problem,” added the INTERPOL chief.
The project provides for a comprehensive training programme for investigators during the next 12 months, including core investigative skills sets and specialist options, such as drugs and fraud. Open to a range of participants including the Seychelles Police Force, Coastguard, Financial Investigation Unit (FIU), the National Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Customs the project will create the sustainable forensic and investigative capability needed to successfully confront not just piracy, but all domestic and transnational crime affecting the Seychelles.
In November 2010, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a resolution which ‘urges states, in co-operation with INTERPOL and Europol, to further investigate international criminal networks involved in piracy off the coast of Somalia, including those responsible for illicit financing and facilitation’.
The following month the European Union adopted a Decision which will see the EU’s on-going military operation against maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia use INTERPOL’s global network and tools to fight the criminal networks behind piracy in the Gulf of Aden.