A Dutch court convicted five Somalis of piracy yesterday and sentenced them to five years in prison for trying to hijack a ship from the Dutch Antilles in 2009, in the first such case to go to trial in Europe.
The Somalis had set out with the intention to hijack a ship and had targeted the Dutch Antilles-flagged Samanyolu, while it was in the Gulf of Aden in January 2009, the Rotterdam court concluded.
Their attempt failed when the ship’s Turkish crew fired signal flares at the Somali boat, ripping it to shreds. Danish marines rescued the Somalis and handed them over to Dutch authorities.
The Somalis had said they approached the Samanyolu for help, but following statements from the Turkish crew and Danish marines the court found that the approach was aggressive.
The association whose members own the majority of the world’s tanker fleet said the ruling could “turn out to be a landmark case”.
“INTERTANKO applauds this very positive step which indicates the willingness of a European nation to adhere to its obligations under international law to deliver justice to the pirates,” marine director Howard Snaith said.
“We therefore hope that this will lead to successful prosecutions becoming the norm for both actual and attempted hijackings.”
The Netherlands tried the five Somalis under international piracy law, but it has said it only wants to handle Dutch-related cases.
Earlier this month, an Amsterdam court ruled that another group of suspected Somali pirates arrested by Dutch marines off the coast of Somalia would be extradited to Germany to face criminal charges.
Germany had requested the extradition of the 10 Somalis, who were taken off a hijacked German commercial ship 500 nautical miles off the Somali coast in April and arrested after an exchange of gunfire.
In December, experts at a conference in The Hague said efforts to establish an international court to prosecute Somali pirates faced complex laws governing the seas and national sovereignty as well as the lack of an effective police force.