Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Case Opens in Italy

Nine Somali men appeared in a Roman court on 23rd March. They have been charged with piracy and the State is also alleging that the act of piracy was a fund-raising exercise for Al-Shabaab. This will be one of the first cases where the prosecution will try and prove links between so-called terrorist organisations and piracy. Their next court appearance will be on 15th May 2012.

The nine men were part of a group of fifteen arrested in October 2011 by British and US forces as part of a joint  NATO Ocean Shield operation. They are alleged to have hi-jacked the Italian vessel Montecristo. All fifteen people arrested were handed over to Italian custody and flown to Rome; after a police investigation two of the men were repatriated to Pakistan. Nine adults appeared in court on 23rd March and the remaining four people are juveniles and will be prosecuted in a juvenile court, their case begins on 2nd April.

Current Military Forces Present

Military forces present in the Horn of Africa on 28 March 2012:
China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the USA.

These are ships from Operation Atalanta, Operation Ocean Shield, CTF 151 and the independent navies.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Held in Kenya

On the 18th and 19th February four Somali men arrested by Danish forces were flown to Mombasa, Kenya. They were actually supposedly arrested on 7th January this year. At least two of them were first flown to the Seychelles, before all four of there were flown to Kenya. It is not known whether the other two were held at sea before being sent to Kenya, or were also sent via another country.

Last year Denmark took 24 people arrested on piracy charges to Kenya.

Kenya now holds over 200 people arrested as pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

This is despite what is happening in the courts in Kenya. In January 2011, the Kenya's High Court ruled that “...Local Courts can only deal with offences or criminal incidents that take place within the territorial jurisdiction of Kenya.” The result was that Kenya did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute 'Piracy on the High Seas' (that is, acts of piracy which occur outside a State's territorial seas). This decision arose out of a 2009 court case reported here, a case which also ended with an order that the defendants in the trial were to be repatriated back to their homelands. The case is still under appeal as the prosecution demand the right to try the men in Kenya.

The background to the case was the arrest in March 2009 of nine Somali and Sudan suspected pirates by the German Navy. The men were arrested allegedly trying to hijack a German cargo ship (the MV Courier), crewed by mainly Filipino people and sailing under the flags of Antigua and Barbuda. At  the time Angela Merkel had argued that it was not in Germany's interests to bring alleged pirates to trial in Germany. (This changed when a group of ten men and teenagers were arrested by the Dutch Navy, read about the court case on 'Reclaim the Seas' blog.)

Another interesting fact about the 2009 German arrest of the men and subsequent refusal to prosecute them in Germany, is that it was from this incident that the 2009 Moratorium of Agreement was signed between Kenya and the EU; an agreement that allowed arrested pirates to be handed over to Kenya for prosecution. Now the agreement is under threat by a court-case arising from that same incident.

A further exercise in relation to the same case, was the suing of the German government by some of the arrested men. They alleged that Germany must have known of the unsatisfactory prison conditions in Kenya and therefore they should not have been handed over to the jurisdiction of Kenya.