The European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) orders France to pay thousands of euros in compensation for moral damages to nine Somali pirates apprehended in 2008. The controversial ruling was made early in December, 2014. Kemplon Engineering takes a closer look at what had prompted the ECHR to rule in favor of the Somali pirates:
At their peak, sometime in January 2011, Somali pirates were said to have held some 736 hostages and 32 boats. Authorities in the country were ill-equipped to handle the menace, and the decrease of piracy incidents of the last few years has been aided by international fleets doing patrols in the area and increased armed security aboard sailing vessels.
It is in the context of this piracy problem that the French army made arrests in 2008. The Somali pirates apprehended were linked to attacking a French-flagged cruise ship and a French yacht, taking citizens of France hostage. The hostages were released for ransoms amounting to $2.1 million and $2 million.
The arrests were conducted on two separate occasions, on the Somali coast 4,000 miles away from French territory. The pirates were then taken to France to stand trial.
The ECHR Ruling
The Court of Human Rights acknowledged the exceptional circumstances of the arrest—that the local authorities were unable to deal with piracy and the arrests were made far from French soil, which caused a long detention. However, the Court found that once reaching French territory, there should have been no delay in bringing the accused before a judge. The additional 48 hours the pirates were kept in custody, considered a violation of their rights, merited a ruling on compensation in the amounts of 2,000 to 5,000 euros each for moral damages, and 3,000 to 9,000 euros for legal costs.
Some in the maritime industry expressed disappointment in the decision. Roy Paul, Program Director for The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (“MPHRP”), had described the judgment as “an insult to all in the maritime industry,” while others are concerned by the decision encouraging negative behavior, and how the human rights of pirates, in a sense, are given a higher premium than the rights of seafarers.
Piracy is a concern for anyone involved in the maritime industry and their families. It impacts commerce as it affects routes, insurance and security requirements. More importantly, it creates even more dangers to the challenges of seafaring. The controversy is wholly understandable, as we come into the limits of our willingness to uphold justice and to keep the moral high ground—even in the face of making judgments in favor of people we consider as lawbreakers.
^ “Court tells France to pay damages to Somali pirates.” BBC, 04 Dec 2014. Web. 26 Dec 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30326397
^ “Decision of the European Court of Human Rights is repugnant obscene and insulting to all Seafarers who have survived Piracy Attacks.” Hellenic Shipping News, 08 Dec 2014. Web. 26 Dec 2014. http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/decision-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights-is-repugnant-obscene-and-insulting-to-all-seafarers-who-have-survived-piracy-attacks/
^ Grey, Michael. “The moral high ground.” SeaTrade Global, 11 Dec 2014. Web. 26 Dec 2014. http://www.seatrade-global.com/news/europe/the-moral-high-ground.html
^ Malm, Sara. “France ordered to pay compensation to PIRATES: Farce as European Court says convicted Somalis were ‘detained 48 hours too long’.” Mail Online, 04 Dec 2014. Web. 26 Dec 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2860707/European-court-chides-France-Somali-pirate-arrests.html
^ World Maritime News Staff. “EU Court Orders Compensation to Somali Pirates.” World Maritime News, 05 Dec 2014. Web. 26 Dec 2014. http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/145888/eu-court-orders-compensation-to-somali-pirates/
^ “Image “Silver Scales Of Justice” courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net