News24

Seychelles to fight piracy

2010-05-06 15:33

New York - The Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles is to set up UN-backed courts to prosecute suspected pirates nabbed by European Union naval forces off Somalia, a UN statement said on Wednesday.

The regional centre for prosecution of suspected pirates will be the second in the area, after one already established by Kenya.

The Vienna-based UN office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the centre would be used to receive piracy suspects caught by EU naval units for prosecutions on its court.

In March, the Seychelles began trying 11 pirates arrested by its coast guard with help from EU maritime patrol aircraft based in Seychelles.

The trial was conducted under a recently amended provision of the Seychelles criminal code that allows for the prosecution of piracy under universal jurisdiction.

Later the same week, eleven more pirates were transferred to the custody of the Seychelles authorities after they were by the French Navy off Somalia and flown to Seychelles via Djibouti.

Seychelles authorities have been working with the EU-UNODC counter-piracy program to ensure that the country's criminal justice system is ready for such trials.

Additional funding from Australia, Canada and Germany also made it possible to provide the police and coast guard of Seychelles with training in procedures for handing over evidence and suspects and to supply the coast guard with substantial navigation and tactical information gear.

Last month, the EU offered support to Kenya and the Seychelles to continue to judge and jail suspected Somali pirates, as Nairobi moved to cancel agreements on their prosecution.

Toughen legislation

EU nations are reluctant to try suspects captured by the naval force in busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden but the bloc cannot send them to any country where they might face abuse or the death penalty.

Kenya, with the Seychelles the only littoral state that has agreed to take in suspects for prosecution, recently complained that the strain on its over-populated prisons and congested courts was too heavy.

Nairobi has formally announced that it wants to stop prosecuting suspected Somali pirates and cancel the agreements it has to that effect with several naval powers.

Kenya has memoranda of understanding with the European Union, United States, Canada, Denmark, China and Britain whereby it takes in suspects intercepted at sea and prosecutes them in courts in Mombasa.

The Seychelles in March agreed to take in suspects for prosecution but has an even more limited capacity and insists that convicted pirates be taken back to Somalia to serve their sentences.

The EU has also opened negotiations with five other countries in the region, including South Africa and Tanzania, in the hope of forging agreements on trying piracy suspects.

Last month, the UN Security Council passed a resolution urging all states to toughen legislation aimed at prosecuting and jailing pirates caught off Somalia.

An international armada of warships has patrolled an area in the north of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden for more than a year in a bid to curb rampant piracy.

But countries which have captured pirates have often had difficulty bringing them to justice because of legal technicalities.