The conviction involved eleven Somali men accused of acts of piracy. The presiding Magistrate, the Hon Ole Tanchu, delivered the verdict at the Mombasa Law Courts on 29 September, sentencing the eleven Somali men accused to prison sentences of five years.
The conviction relates to the attack on the Merchant Vessel Safmarine Asia on 15 April 2009. On that day, the Liberia-flagged MV Safmarine Asia came under sustained small arms and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack from two skiffs that were operating in close company with a mother ship. Following a distress call from the stricken container ship, the helicopter from French warship FS Nivose quickly arrived on the scene to deter the hijacking and shadow the mother vessel until the warship arrived and intercepted the pirates.
To date, EU NAVFOR has transferred 92 individuals to the Kenya authorities for prosecution in the Kenyan national courts. Earlier on this month, the Kenya authorities already sentenced 14 men to five years imprisonment each.
Prosecutions are conducted by Kenyan prosecutors under Kenyan Law before a single magistrate. EU NAVFOR officers work closely with Kenyan prosecutors and the local police with regard to the preparation of the prosecution case.
The maximum sentence upon conviction for piracy offences in Kenya is life imprisonment; under Kenyan Law – and indeed as a pre-condition for suspected pirates being transferred by EU NAVFOR – capital punishment is not available. In all cases, the accused persons have had the benefit of legal representation.