Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pirate Update - Seizures After Freight Vessel Attacked - Gaol For 11 Guilty Men

EU NAVFOR Score Victories - but Kidnappings Continue
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – SEYCHELLES – Notable victories for the EU NAVFOR Somalia force this week with the warship SPS Galicia supported by a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) able to locate and disrupt two groups of pirates in Kenyan waters. After two attacks on a merchant vessel on the 2nd November the Galicia, which was patrolling the shipping lanes some 75 miles distant was able to answer the distress calls and intercept two skiffs with eleven suspected pirates aboard.

The coordination between the EU NAVFOR French Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) and EU NAVFOR Spanish SPS Galicia’s helicopter made it possible to relocate one skiff. The warship’s helicopter successfully intercepted this skiff with the ship’s boarding team. One fuel drum, several jerry cans, ladders, and 7 people were found onboard the skiff. Quantities of weaponry and one orange tarpaulin were seen being thrown overboard by the helicopter team.

Early the following day, the helicopter of SPS Galicia was able to sight two more suspicious skiffs, sailing with ladders, jerry cans and powerful overboard motors. One of the two skiffs was quickly intercepted by the Galicia’s boarding team. Further attempts to stop the second skiff by the helicopter continued, in vain.

In total, 11 suspected pirates and 2 skiffs were intercepted; one further skiff fled the scene. The absence of flagrante delicto did not make it possible to pursue prosecution. One skiff was confiscated and suspected pirates were sent back to Somalia in the second one. This disruption hampered pirate action and avoided highly probable attacks on merchant and vulnerable vessels.

On the 3rd November the EU NAVFOR operation saw a further notable victory when the first judgment yesterday in a Seychelles prosecution in connection with the interdiction of a pirate group by an EU NAVFOR warship resulted in guilty verdicts being handed down on eleven Somali men accused of acts of piracy. The judge, His Lordship Judge Burhan, delivered the verdict at the Seychelles Courts on 3 November, sentencing all eleven pirates to prison sentences of six years each, with a reduction for time spent on remand.

Major General Buster Howes, Operation Commander of EU NAVFOR Somalia commented:

“This first conviction of pirates transferred by EU NAVFOR to the Seychelles marks an important step in the co-operation between European Union and the Republic of Seychelles in the suppression of acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia.”

The conviction relates to the attack on the Spanish Fishing Vessel Intertuna 2, on 5 March 2010. The pirate gangs activities detected in the Somali basin, approximately 350 nautical miles off the Somali Coast, led to an immediate response by the EU NAVFOR French warship FS Nivose which was tasked to investigate in the area. She eventually intercepted and boarded two skiffs and a whaler, in an area clearly linked to the unsuccessful attack on the fishing vessel. The whaler was destroyed and the warship took on board the two skiffs, detaining the suspected pirates. With the evidence gathered and presented to the Seychelles authorities, it was approved for the 11 detainees to be flown on 17 March from Djibouti to the Seychelles for prosecution.

Prosecution was conducted by a Prosecutor of England & Wales who is qualified to appear in the Seychelles Court and played an important role in the timely and efficient management of the trial. The Defence Counsel was appointed by the United Nations - this is a common practice to help ensure the suspect persons have access to free legal representation and thus a fair trial. The case was conducted in English. However, language interpreters were present for the Somalis, as well as for the Spanish, Italian, and French witnesses.

The maximum sentence upon conviction for piracy offences in Kenya is 30 years; under Seychelles Law – and indeed as a precondition for all suspected pirates being transferred by EUNAVFOR – capital punishment is not available. The good news was somewhat dulled by a report that the Comorian flagged MV Aly Zoulfecar had been seized by pirates as it travelled between the Comoros Islands and Tanzania the same day. The vessel carried nine crew plus twenty passengers, but on attempting to sail to Somalia she ran out of fuel and demands were made for the Tanzanian authorities to resupply her. We await further news as to her fate.

Photo: Rear-Admiral Bauza (former EU NAVFOR Deputy Commander) and French Ambassador H.E. Philippe Delacroix inspect items seized from the pirate gang sentenced yesterday.