UN Approves Vessel Inspections for Charcoal and Arms off Somalia
The United Nations Security Council has authorized the inspection of vessels in territorial waters and on the high seas which they had “reasonable grounds” to believe were carrying charcoal from Somalia, in violation of the charcoal ban from 2012, or weapons or military equipment, in violation of the arms embargo.
The Council authorized States, for a 12-month period, to inspect vessels and to seize and dispose of any prohibited items. Such authorizations applied only with respect to the situation in Somalia, the Council said, deciding to review those measures after six months.
Speaking after action, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant welcomed the resolution’s adoption, stressing that the fight against Al-Shabaab was at the heart of the naval operation discussed in the text. Since the ban had been put in place, the illegal charcoal trade had increased, with the Monitoring Group estimating that Al-Shabaab had kept up to one-third of the revenue from the USD 250 million trade.
The resolution was supported by 13 Council members, with Russia and Jordan abstaining from the vote.
Jordan’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud said that operative paragraph 15 outlined that any State could inspect ships, both in Somali waters and on the high seas — a matter that was subject to legal constraints and considerations. Such actions on the high seas could be used for political aims that went beyond the goal of the resolution. Further, the scope of authorization in the paragraph went beyond what had been requested by the President of Somalia, which raised questions, as did the insistence on giving open authority to any State, he said. For inspections to be conducted on “reasonable grounds” was not a sufficient guarantee to prevent the abuse of the authorization. It would have been better to use “objective controls”, such as reliable information, rather than leave criteria open to subjectivity. He hoped the limits included in operative paragraph 20 would be included in the Monitoring Group’s report. Resolutions should not be used to manipulate international legal rules.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that his Government would have been ready to support the resolution if some provisions had not been based on statements in the last report by the Monitoring Group that were not supported by facts. Experts should be guided by verified facts and not make conclusions based on “assumptions and rash accusations”. The way in which work on the draft had been conducted, especially in the final stages when the authors had made a point to disregard other members’ views, did not reflect well on the British delegation. More attention should have been paid to issues raised by Arab countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council, he said.