European court chides France over Somali pirate arrests
The European Court of Human Rights Thursday ordered France to pay thousands of euros to Somali pirates who had attacked French ships because they were not immediately brought before a judge.
The ECHR said that authorities should have presented the pirates “without delay” to a judge when they arrived on French territory after being held at sea.
The Somali pirates were apprehended on the high seas by the French army on two separate occasions in 2008 and taken back to France for trial.
In a ruling published in French, the court acknowledged there were “completely exceptional circumstances” to justify a long detention without seeing a judge — that the arrest took place “more than 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) from French territory.”
The ECHR also noted that the Somali authorities were “incapable of fighting” against the pirates.
Nevertheless, the court ruled that after their arrival on French soil, authorities were wrong to keep the pirates in custody for an additional 48 hours before bringing them before a judge.
“Nothing justifies such an additional delay,” read the ECHR verdict.
This constituted a “violation of their rights to freedom and security,” the court ruled.
France was ordered to pay between 5,000 and 2,000 euros ($6,100 and $2,500) to each pirate for “moral damages”, plus amounts varying from 9,000 euros to 3,000 euros to cover legal costs.
Pirate attacks off Somalia have been slashed in recent years, with international fleets patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, as well as armed guards being posted aboard many vessels.
At their peak in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats, some onshore and others on their vessels.