The US decision to hand over 15 suspected Somali pirates to the Seychelles to stand trial is evidence of an international drive to prosecute piracy.
UN Office on Drugs and Crime Counter-Piracy programme co-ordinator Alan Cole confirmed there had been transfers from the UK, Denmark and the US to the Seychelles and Kenya in the last few weeks.
“It shows the regional states are still determined to play their role, just as the naval states are playing theirs,” he said. “Somalia is co-operating through accepting convicted pirates back into its prison system to free up space in the regional countries for further prosecutions. Mauritius and Tanzania have also agreed to prosecute.”
Last year the Seychelles changed its law to allow pirates captured anywhere beyond its territorial waters to be prosecuted. It has a limited capacity, though, and has had to turn down certain requests. The nation is understood to have 20% of its prison capacity taken up by pirates, the highest percentage in detention anywhere. The Seychelles has 66 convicted pirates in its jails and 37 suspects in detention.
At the London Conference on Somalia held last month, nations promised to work together in an effort to prosecute piracy in Somalia. A UK House of Commons Library Standard note said: “Under international law any country can prosecute piracy on the high seas; but in practice few do so unless there are national interests at stake, and many suspected pirates are released without trial. The UK has brought no Somali suspected pirates to the UK for prosecution. Practical capacity and political will are sometimes lacking in countries that might prosecute.”
The report added that increasing Somalia’s capacity to prosecute its pirates is a main thrust of international efforts, but even with this support it will be many years before Somalia can deal with all suspects.