Pirates get 20 years in prison

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Eleven pirates apprehended by a French warship in May 2009 have been found guilty by Kenyan authorities and now face 20 years imprisonment.

The French frigate FS Nivose, part of the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) Operation Atalanta, stopped a pirate mother ship between the Seychelles and the Kenyan port of Mombasa in May 2009.

The pirates had tried to escape in two skiffs, but the frigate’s helicopter foiled the attempt. With the evidence found and confiscated, the suspects were detained and handed over to Kenyan authorities for onwards prosecution.

On April 19, the legal finish that the EU Naval Force seeks with every disruption, was achieved and counter piracy efforts rewarded with a 20 year jail term for those pirates, the EU Navfor said.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the threat of piracy is still high in Somalia despite fewer incidents this year and multinational efforts to combat the scourge.

Somalia continues to dominate figures with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and the taking hostage of 144 crew in the first quarter of this year, according to the IMB’s global piracy report. Four dhows and a fishing vessel, softer targets that make for ideal motherships, were among the highjacked vessels. Somali pirates were also responsible for the hijacking of a Panamax bulk carrier at the end of March.

But while the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken.

The report attributes the reduction in overall attacks to the disruptive actions and pre-emptive strikes by the navies in the region, which disrupted numerous pirate action groups, emphasizing the importance of the navies in both deterring and combating Somali piracy.

The application of Best Management Practices and the increasing use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) also contributed to the decrease in the hijackings. In the incidents reported to the Piracy Reporting Centre, more vessels with PCASP have been reported in the first quarter than those not armed.
“The EU announcement to expand their anti-piracy mission to target pirates ashore is another welcome move that could further threaten the Somali piracy model,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.

As of 31 March 2012, suspected Somali pirates still held 15 vessels with 253 crewmembers as hostages, with an additional 49 crew members being held hostage on land.

In total, 11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide in the first quarter of this year, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon – the latter all attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.