News Brief – Two more Trials in European States

Somali defendants and their lawyers at the opening of the trial against the pirates accused of attacking the ship Taipan on the Indian Ocean, at Hamburg Regional Court. Photographer: Joern Pollex/Getty Images

A piracy trial in German has closed and is awaiting a verdict, while a new Dutch piracy trial is set to begin. The German trial is the first piracy prosecution in that country for over 400 years. The press reports there has been confusion over the age and names of the Accused. It further notes that the trial began in November 2010 and it is unknown when a verdict can be expected, raising obvious speedy trial concerns. It will be interesting to see how the German court addresses these issues.

The Dutch trial concerns an April 2011 incident in which Somalis fired shots at Dutch marines who were attempting to board the Iranian flagged ship that had been hijacked. According to the story:

“The marines then boarded the ship and arrested 16 Somalis and found 16 Iranian fishermen who had been held hostage on the boat for four months as well as automatic weapons and rocket launchers, according to the prosecution.

Seven of the Somalis were released and the rest brought to the Netherlands for trial on charges of piracy and attempted murder.”

The case may raise questions as to the scope of the right of visit and the right to seize pirate ships (Articles 110 and 105 of UNCLOS respectively).  It could also be interesting to verify whether the Dutch military sought the consent of Iran prior to boarding the fishing vessel as may be required pursuant to Article 110 (See Petrig and Geiß, p. 56). We will provide further details upon availability.

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