NAPLES, Italy – The U.N. Security Council meets Wednesday to discuss how to increase the chances of prosecuting and imprisoning those accused of committing acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Most of the options before the counsel involve creating local, regional and international tribunals or courts, as well as establishing jurisdictions for trials, according to a U.N. report released Friday. The report also stressed the importance of adequate prison facilities.

“The need for sufficient arrangements for imprisonment in the region, ideally in Somalia, may be as critical as the options for prosecution,” the report states. “This is particularly so given the large numbers of suspects apprehended by naval States.”

The meeting comes after two recent cases in which authorities failed to prosecute suspected pirates and had to release them.

In March, Combined Maritime Forces returned eight suspected pirates to Somalia after holding them for nearly a month aboard a U.S. warship. The suspects were returned due to insufficient evidence for prosecution, according to CMF officials.

Last week, a U.S. judge dismissed piracy charges against six suspects accused of attacking the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland in April. The judge said the U.S. government failed to make the case for piracy, but left in place other charges stemming from the incident, the Associated Press reported.

Despite this lack of prosecutions, piracy attacks are down this year, according to reports by the International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Services cited by the U.N. For the first two quarters of 2010, ICCs International Maritime Bureau recorded 196 pirate incidents worldwide, compared with 240 incidents during the first half of 2009.

The decline is attributed to stepped-up patrols by international navies around the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, as well as evasive actions taken by merchant ships.

The U.N. report stressed the importance of continued funding for anti-piracy efforts, such as the building of a special high-security courtroom in Mombasa, Kenya, last year to be used specifically for piracy cases and serious criminal trials.

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