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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

INTERTANKO hails another milestone as Somali pirates sentenced to ten years imprisonment in Seychelles

Press briefing

In what is a historic milestone in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles Supreme Court has for the first time prosecuted, convicted and sentenced 11 Somali pirates to ten years imprisonment. Eight were convicted of committing an act of piracy, and three for aiding and abetting an act of piracy. This move makes the Seychelles, along with Kenya, the main centre for the prosecution and detention of pirates in East Africa.

The offences took place in the Seychelles EEZ on 5-6 December 2009 when the vessel Topaz was attacked by the pirates in two skiffs armed with automatic weapons. Those convicted of aiding and abetting were found on board a nearby ‘mother’ skiff which, evidence has shown, provided the two skiffs with firearms and ammunition before they attacked. 29 more suspected Somali pirates have been accused and are still awaiting trial in the Seychelles.

Tough action against Somali pirates is slowly but surely escalating. Earlier this year, the Seychelles faced a threat to its two main industries, tourism and fishing, following international frustration when the country repatriated 22 Somalis claiming it had insufficient evidence to bring piracy charges against them. The Seychelles government agreed tough new anti-piracy laws and started building a £320,000 jail capable of holding up to 40 pirates.

Then in June this year, the United Nations built a new court for pirates in Kenya with contributions from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Germany and the United States. Kenya has over 100 pirate prisoners in custody and eighteen have been tried and convicted. We hope that Europe and the U.S. continue to support both Kenya and the Seychelles in building up their local capacity for detention, prosecution, conviction and sentencing of pirates. These nations have the will to do this, but their resources are limited. As INTERTANKO, we too are determined to do all we can to assist in gathering evidence to secure such prosecutions.

Last month the shipping industry was given further encouragement in the fight against piracy when five Somali pirates tried by the Rotterdam courts were sentenced to five years imprisonment.

“It is only by taking this sort of tough and resolute action that those affected by the scourge of piracy in this area can impress on the Somali pirates that what they do will not be tolerated and that their illegal actions will be punished,” commented Capt Howard Snaith, INTERTANKO’s Marine Director.