Just as piracy is not a victimless crime then neither is the criminal gifted with impunity as the last month has seen a number of successful advances in piracy prosecution around the world. Italy successfully concluded two piracy trials, with the first trial relating to the prosecution of eight Somali pirates who attempted to pirate the Italian-flagged cargo ship, MV Montecristo, in 2011. The eight pirates were found guilty of attempted kidnapping for extortion and illegal possession of firearms. The convicted pirates were each sentenced to 16 years in jail, with the pirate thought to be the leader of the group sentenced to 19 years.
The second Italian piracy trial occurred in the following week with eleven Somali citizens being sentenced to three and a half years in prison for the attempted hijack of the Italian-flagged, MV Valdarno, 200nm off the coast of Oman on 17 January 2012. The reason for the lesser sentences in the second trial is likely due to the fact that the pirates involved in the MV Valdarno attempt used AK-47s rather than RPGs, never actually boarded the vessel and entered a guilty plea after negotiations with the prosecutors.
The trial of the Somali pirates accused of murdering Jean and Scott Adam, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay looks set to proceed in Virginia, United States of America. The pirates are accused of hijacking the Adams yacht, Quest, 40 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia before killing the four. During the last month the court made rulings on two applications of defence attorneys, firstly that the venue of the trial should be moved as any jury selected from Norfolk, Virginia, United States of America, will be biased. And secondly, that the act occurred within Somali waters. Both arguments were rejected by the court.
Finally, a court in Somalia’s Puntland region sentenced three pirates who were found guilty of holding the newly liberated MV Iceberg 1 and its crew hostage for nearly three years. The criminal offence court in Bari region, Bossaso, Federal Republic of Somalia, found the three pirates guilty of piracy and kidnapping, imposing sentences of between three and 10 years imprisonment.
Captain John Carter United States Navy, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Chief of Staff said; “It is pleasing that there were fewer pirate attacks in 2012 than 2011 and CMF is keen to see this downward trend continue. It is also important to note that a relaxation of counter-piracy protective measures by navies may once again see an increase in the number of pirate attacks.”
Combined Maritime Forces is a 27-nation naval partnership, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, is pleased to work alongside NATO, The European Union, and independent States in the concerted effort to combat piracy originating from Somalia.