Kenyan prosecutors brought piracy charges April 23 against 18 Somali nationals who were captured at sea by European naval forces over the past two months and handed over to Nairobi. The suspects were captured by French and German forces off the Somali coast, where they allegedly attacked several merchant ships in the area. The European Union and Kenya have reached an agreement that allows EU navies to apprehend alleged pirates and turn them over to Kenyan authorities for prosecution.
The agreement contains provisions for the prosecution of piracy suspects, including nine of the Somali pirates charged, who were captured by German forces in March, and “defines modalities” for any capture of suspected pirates in the future. Germany has maintained a presence in the Gulf of Aden as a part of the EU’s Naval Forces Atalanta mission to stem pirate activity in the troubled Gulf region. Kenya has become the lead prosecutor of suspected pirates captured by third-party countries within the Gulf of Aden. Also Thursday, the president of the UN-sponsored International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea said that body is ready to adjudicate piracy cases.
Earlier this week, a Somali suspect captured by US naval forces following an attack on the container ship Maersk Alabama was charged with piracy-related offenses in a US federal court. Earlier this month, the Commandant of the US Coast Guard called for greater enforcement of international piracy laws. In November, eight Somalis were charged in a Kenyan court for piracy after being turned over to Kenyan officials by the British Royal Navy. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838, condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to “deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia.”
In January 2006, the US Navy captured 10 Somali men 200 miles off the coast of Somalia and turned them over to Kenyan courts in Mombasa for prosecution. In November 2006, each of the 10 men was sentenced to seven years in prison. Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia’s coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid. (Jurist, April 23)
There is some controversy over whether a shipment of Russian armaments seized by pirates earlier this year were in fact originally intended for Kenya, as claimed.