News Blogmaritime piracy

A special “piracy” court in Kenya: the idea is gaining ground

(B2)At the last Council of Foreign Ministers, the Dutch Minister, Maxime Verhagen, called for the establishment of a regional court for piracy in East Africa. This should be done “under the umbrella of the United Nations. Convicts could then serve their sentence in their region“, he explained. This position would be supported by several European countries – Germany and the United Kingdom in particular – according to the Dutch minister.

The reasons for this enthusiasm for international justice are diverse.

Even if the international convention of Montego Bay (law of the sea) provides for the repression of piracy. the subsequent trial of Somali and Yemeni pirates by international warships on the high seas poses immeasurable legal problems. Not to mention the practical problems: how to ensure translation, family visits for example... Added to this are less admissible concerns, of low internal politics. Thus the Netherlands (like Germany and several European countries) are not very fond of having to repatriate pirates to their country, to judge them, to imprison them, even if their law allows universal jurisdiction. Because this would then oblige them, once the sentence has been handed down (or if the sentence is acquitted), to give them asylum or a right of residence. Judgment, “from afar”, is therefore preferable. The recent declarations of one of the pirates repatriated to the Netherlands who believed that he would rather be “a prisoner in the Netherlands than free in Somalia” and intended to bring his family afterwards, have rekindled the very palpable fear among the Dutch,
against these pirates who come to settle in their country (read the Volkskrant).

An international tribunal through the United Nations : Russians, Americans and NATO agree ?

We remember that the Russian government (Medvedev and Putin in the lead) had also argued in a similar direction a few weeks ago. The Prosecutor General of Russia, Alexander Zvyagintsev, summarized the Russian position: “The quickest way to create an international justice mechanism to combat acts of maritime piracy – he said on May 13, according to my colleagues from News - consists of adopting a UN Security Council resolution establishing an international tribunal to judge pirates, as was done in 1993 and 1994 for Yugoslavia and Rwanda., he said in an interview with the daily Rossiïskaïa Gazeta. Other scenarios — create a tribunal by an agreement between the States concerned; placing maritime piracy under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court or setting up a criminal chamber at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea — imply the signing of an international treaty, which will take several years, according to him. Not to mention the hostility in principle of certain countries (China, India, United States, etc.) to an International Criminal Court. NATO spokesperson James Appathurai, for his part, estimated that “the idea of ​​a tribunal with possible UN sponsorship is worth exploring”.

Kenya candidate to host an international tribunal… on condition that we help it

Kenya is voluntary. Government spokesperson Alfred Mutua declared at the end of April that his country was a candidate for the opening of an anti-piracy center in Mombasa. But the government also intends for the international community to support this effort. He knows very well the motivations of Western countries to see pirates judged, far from their eyes. Thus, according to my information, the European Union has already paid 1,7 million euros intended to modernize Kenyan prisons and courts and in fact to “compensate” for pirate deliveries. But Kenya believes that this amount is not enough. And requests a reassessment of the amount…


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).