Two Somali pirates who hijacked a South African yacht off the coast of Tanzania last November were sentenced to up to seven years in prison by a Dutch court.
Tried under a law which gives the Netherlands international jurisdiction over piracy, the two hijackers and three other Somalis were also convicted of piracy, a court in Rotterdam said in a statement.
One member of the “Choizil” yacht’s crew was rescued by a European Union anti-piracy task force, but two others were taken ashore as hostages and have not been heard from since, Reuters reports
The pirates, all in their early 20s, were heavily armed with machine guns and bazookas, the court said. Involvement in hijacking could not be proved for the three other men.
The five suspects will serve out their sentences — ranging between four and a half years and seven years — in the Netherlands unless the prosecutor asks them to serve it elsewhere, a court’s spokeswoman said.
Many vessels including oil tankers have been seized in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden in recent years by armed pirates seeking tens of millions of dollars in ransoms.
The cost of international piracy on world trade is put at billions of dollars a year but, because of the huge distances involved, navies struggle to contain the crisis.
Even when alleged pirates have been captured, it has proved difficult to put them on trial because of disagreements over which country should try them, and because Somalia lacks the legal infrastructure to carry out prosecutions.
Piracy attacks on world shipping rose by a third in the first half of this year and became increasingly violent, the International Maritime Bureau said in July, but added that successful hijackings had declined due to navy patrols.
Underlining the seriousness of the crisis, the United Nations Security Council backed the idea in April of special courts to try captured Somali pirates but put off a decision on thorny issues such as where to locate them.