Seychelles to launch UN-backed courts to combat piracy

Skiff used in piracy captured by Seychelles Coast Guard

5 May 2010 – The remoteness of the Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles has made it a prime target for pirates, and the country is fighting back by setting up a United Nations-supported centre to prosecute piracy.

With naval activity around the Horn of Africa – including Somalia – becoming increasingly secure, pirates are moving south towards Seychelles, attacking ships based in or operating around the archipelago.

The Seychelles’ regional centre will be the second of its kind, the first having been established in Kenya, and it will try piracy suspects apprehended by the European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation (EU NAVFOR).

The country’s Government has been working with the new joint Counter-Piracy Programme of the EU and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to ensure that its criminal justice system is ready for such trials.

The scheme aims to assist the police, coastguard, prosecutors, courts and prisons in dealing with the challenges posed by piracy cases.

In March, the trial of 11 pirates arrested by Seychelles’ coastguard, with the aid of EU NAVFOR, began, held under a recently-amended provision in the country’s criminal code allowing for piracy prosecution under universal jurisdiction. Professional Somali interpreters, provided by the EU and UNODC, are ensuring that the accused can properly take part in their trial.

Also in March, 11 additional alleged pirates were transferred to Seychelles authorities’ custody after having been captured by the French Navy off the Somali coast.

The EU and UNODC have established a mentorship programme at the only prison in the country where suspected and convicted pirates are being held.

Last week, the Security Council put forward the possibility of setting up international tribunals to try pirates, as its members called for tougher legislation aimed at prosecuting and jailing suspects caught off the coast of Somalia.

In a unanimously-adopted resolution, the 15-member body appealed to all States “to criminalize piracy under their domestic law and favourably consider the prosecution of suspected, and imprisonment of convicted, pirates apprehended off the coast of Somalia, consistent with applicable international human rights law.”

The Council noted efforts by UNODC and other international organization and donors, including the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), “to enhance the capacity of the judicial and the corrections systems in Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles and other States in the region.”


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