Sunday, June 20, 2010

Will Shipping Attacks Increase After Pirates Gaoled In Europe ?

Sentences Could Possibly Encourage Rather than Deter
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – The gaoling of five Somali pirates this week in Rotterdam has been met with varying degrees of enthusiasm by parties to whom it is relevant. Whilst ship owners, shipping lines and agents have expressed some satisfaction at this first criminal conviction by a European Court this has been tempered by the length of the sentences, seen as too lenient by many, and against that, the reaction of some of the convicted men themselves who seem not only resigned to their fate, but positively satisfied by their likely future.

The five men were arrested after attacking the 3,250 dwt general cargo vessel Sananyolu in January of 2009. Since she was registered in the Dutch Antilles a European arrest warrant was issued three weeks after their initial detention by a Danish frigate which picked them up after their small vessel took fire following a stout defence by the Turkish crew of the freighter.

Despite dumping automatic weapons and at least one rocket propelled grenade launcher over the side forensic evidence and overwhelming witness testimonies proved an attack on the Sananyolu had taken place and the men’s defence that they were “fishing” was disregarded by the Court as a fabrication. The prosecution had requested a seven year term but this was reduced by the Court who stated that the social conditions which drove the men to act as they did were a mitigation of their actions.

It is this very mitigation which is now concerning many observers. Subsequent to the sentence one of the pirates stated that he was anticipating settling in a “Democratic country” and as Somalia is considered as an environment hostile to refugees the wrongdoers may very well find a way to remain in Europe after their jail terms have ended. As they have already served almost eighteen months in prisons in Bahrain and Holland, and assuming they qualify for a reduced sentence for good behaviour, it will not be too long until the Dutch must decide what is to be done with the miscreants.

Meantime the men, having everything to gain and nothing to lose, have announced an intention to appeal, their lawyers stating that the Dutch Court does not have jurisdiction, whilst other Somalis await trials in France, Spain, Germany and the United States accused of similar offences. So far only Kenya has incarcerated others committing piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the lawyers are boning up on international legislation which in many cases has not been tested in three hundred years.

Parties interested in the history of pirate attacks in the region should type suitable keywords into the news search at the head of this page or to sign the anti piracy petition apply HERE.