Source:¬†Lainformacion.com¬†(Spanish Language Translation)
The forces of the¬†EU¬†deployed in the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Atalanta are forced to release¬†around 30 percent of the pirates held¬†near the coast of¬†Somalia¬†due to the difficulties in bringing them to justice and thus ending the impunity with which they operate.
As an example, during the four months that¬†Spain¬†assumed command of the EU mission, between December and April, eight of the 29 arrested had to be released.¬†”We arrested 29 pirates and 21 of them were transferred.¬†The other eight had to be released because no country wanted to exercise their right to trial, “said Rear Admiral Pedro Garcia de Paredes, who led the EU mission until April 6.
The problem with the eight Somali pirates who had to be released during the Spanish command, as related by the Admiral, was that it was held a month after they realized the attack of which they were accused, so obtaining evidence against thme is complicated.¬†”When you spend a lot of time between the criminal act and the arrest, it is very difficult to obtain enough evidence so that justice can be done,” he says.
Captain Pedro Pinto, Military Legal Corps, explains the problems facing the EU mission in order to bring to justice the Somali pirates that are captured, a fundamental element to end the sense of impunity with which they operate.¬†EU currently has agreements with the islands of Seychelles and¬†Mauritius to transfer pirates.
Pinto, who has been deployed until last April in the Indian Ocean aboard the frigate M√©ndez N√∫√±ez, where he has advised was in charge of legal operations, says these transfer agreements are the result of “complex negotiations” that rely heavily on the measure of “the political situation”.¬†”Nobody wants their country to become a prison for pirates,” said the Captain.
Moreover, the EU chose agreements with countries which respect Western standards on human rights.¬†Transfer agreements with countries that have the death penalty are¬†not conducted.¬†”The European Union requires standards in judicial and prison conditions.¬†The best place to imprison [the pirates] would be Somalia.¬†But at least they stay in countries of the region that are suffering the effects of piracy, “said Rear Admiral Garcia de Paredes.
The transfer of pirates to Seychelles or¬†Mauritius¬†occurs only as an alternative.¬†According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) also known as the Convention of Jamaica, the country that imprisons a pirate has a preference for prosecuting them.
This is what happened with Willi and Raageggesey Abdu Hassan Aji, who were sentenced in Spain to respective¬†sentences¬†of 403 years for participating in the kidnapping of Basque tuna “Alakrana”, which took place in October 2009.¬†This same principle also led to the¬†High Court¬†decision with six Somali pirates who were arrested in January 2012 after attacking the ship ‘Pati√±o’, which was mistaken for a merchant.
There is a second preference level, relating to the country of the attacked ship owner.¬†Pinto explains in this respect that many ships sail under flags of convenience, so that countries often refuse to take the pirates arrested.¬†In addition, there is the fact that sailors that sometimes have even been attacked, reject a complaint in order to avoid having to travel to countries like Seychelles or Mauritius to give evidence in the proceedings.
The final decision to deliver¬†the pirates,¬†or not, and which country is dependent on the overall command of the European Naval Force (EUNAVFOR), located in Northwood, England, which has the advice of legal experts.
Captain Pinto says that in the arrests of pirates is an “exquisite respect” to the rights of those arrested and that they are treated “like criminals arrested in the European Union”.
The counsel stated that in this regard on board ships of the EU mission, statement cannot be taken from captured pirates because they cannot have the assistance of counsel.¬†A suspected pirate receives a medical examination aboard warships of the EU.¬†They are given three meals and a bath every day and allowed to pray.
Pinto also notes that one of the most complicated parts of this process is the collection of evidence.¬†Among the list of evidence is presented in court are the fingerprints of the pirates and seized weapons, although the pirates are pulled out of the sea before being arrested, as in the case of ‘Pati√±o’.
Also used as evidence against pirates, sailors statements and photographs of an attack taken by the EU naval force helicopters, usually taken before boarding.
Long Journey to the Court
After the arrest, and if both the country that has made the arrest and the ship’s owner decline to take the pirates, the command of Operation Atalanta commences negotiations with Seychelles and Mauritius.
The first thing you do is to report to the authorities of these two countries from the evidence collected to examine its robustness.¬†Seychelles and Mauritius are reluctant to prosecute pirates when the evidence is not entirely convincing since, which may lead to a hypothetical acquittal, those arrested would be released.¬†If it is decided to give the arrested pirates to the Seychelles, the ship that made the arrest will usually sail to the country, which marks the southern boundary area of the Atalanta mission operations.
If delivery is made to Mauritius, those arrested are taken to the port of¬†Djibouti, where they are collected by a delegation of the country and flown to Mauritius.
When you cannot transfer the pirate to any country, the EU military are forced to release them.¬†The Spanish military often use the term “leave on the beach” to refer to this release.¬†Actually what you do is let them near the coast, about two kilometers from land, in their own boats, although they replaced the engines with less power.¬†The military is staying to confirm that the detainees arrive at the beach.
The choice of the point where the detainees are freed is not casual.¬†We choose an area off the coast of Somalia that is of the tribe of those arrested, and is not near a pirate camp.¬†When released, they are given enough food and water to perform the journey to shore.
But the EU Naval Force always tries to avoid this option.¬†”We always want to see them prosecuted, that is the end we seek every day,” says Admiral Garcia de Paredes.