By: Ramola Talwar Badam/the National
DUBAI //A group of 31 Somali judges and prosecutors will travel to the UAE in October for training in holding piracy trials.
The captured pirates are led from the MV Arrilah-I, which they hijacked in April last year. Courtesy UAE Armed Forces
The workshops are part of a UAE-French initiative to equip the Somali judicial system to try its own piracy cases, rather than relying on other nations to prosecute them.
“We are working with the UAE to train judges, prosecutors and clerks to set up a strong framework for trying cases related to pirates,” said Jocelyne Caballero, special anti-piracy representative from the French ministry of foreign and European affairs.
“We want to support Somalia to prosecute pirates on their own. Being judged by their own authority will have much more effect than prosecutions abroad.”
The first group to undergo two judicial training sessions will be chosen from Somalia and the semiautonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.
“The curriculum and the programme will be taught in the UAE,” said Ms Caballero.
An official from the UAE’s international security department confirmed the plans and said it would also look at training some Somali legal authorities to instruct others at home.
“The training will also be for law teachers,” the source said. “We are still working on details.”
Somali piracy cost governments and the shipping industry more than Dh25 billion last year, the advocacy group One Earth Future Foundation says.
More than 200 sailors are being held hostage by Somali pirates, and 62 have lost their lives to pirates since 2007.
The secretary general of the United Nations issued a report in January suggesting Somaliland and Puntland could be suitable locations to prosecute pirates. At the time, concerns were raised about whether the structure was in place for fair trials.
Neighbouring countries including Kenya, Tanzania and the Seychelles have successfully prosecuted pirates, handing down sentences of between 10 years and life in prison.
Kenya has the highest number of pirates in prison, the foundation says. Of the more than 750 in jail worldwide, 140 are in Kenya.
“Trying the pirates in Somalia is critical,” said Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the international security consultancy Inegma.
“The steps being taken in Kenya and Tanzania are important first steps, but the system has to be created in Somalia.”
The Kenyan ambassador to the UAE Mohamed Gello said prosecuting pirates in neighbouring countries such as his was also a strain on resources.
“Any move that will help the Somali judicial system effectively deal with pirates is welcome,” Mr Gello said.
“This sends the right signals that law and order is slowly being restored, along with the administration of justice.
“It is crucial to build confidence in the judicial system and for the pirates to be dealt with in their own country.”
In the UAE, the Federal Criminal Court sentenced 10 Somali pirates to life imprisonment in May. They were captured last year by UAE special forces and the US Fifth Fleet after they tried to hijack the UAE bulk oil carrier MV Arrilah-I.
The UAE’s stance on battling piracy has long been underpinned by a belief that capturing pirates is only a first step, one that must be backed by programmes to strengthen local communities and bring stability to the area.
This was highlighted at the international counter-piracy conference in Dubai last week, co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Experts and diplomats there said the UAE’s efforts to bolster Somalia’s legal system were in line with the long-held policy that regionally led action plans were the best solution.