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Right to piracy? Court orders France to pay €10K to Somali pirates – for violation of their rights

Right to piracy? Court orders France to pay €10K to Somali pirates – for violation of their rights
Europe's top human rights court has ordered Paris to pay damages to Somali pirates who hijacked two French ships in 2008 for failing to present them to a judge “without delay,” as soon as they were captured and delivered to France.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has accused France of "violation of [the pirates’] rights to freedom and security."

According to the Strasbourg-based court, French authorities shouldn’t have kept the pirates in custody for an additional 48 hours before bringing them before a judge.

France has been ordered to pay between €5,000 and €2,000 to each pirate for "moral damages," plus amounts varying from €3,000 to €9,000 to cover legal costs, AFP reported.

The arrests took place 6,000 kilometers from French territory. The ECHR acknowledged that there were "completely exceptional circumstances" to justify a long detention without the case being heard before a judge. Apart for the 48 hours in France, one group was held at sea for almost five days, and the other for nearly a week.

Two of the three Somali pirates arrested by French soldiers in 2009 Mahmoud Abdi Mohammed (L) and Abdelkader Osmane Ali wait in the accused box, on October 14, 2013 at Rennes' courthouse, prior to the opening hearing of their trial for hijacking a yacht in 2009. (AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)

"Nothing justifies such an additional delay," the ECHR stated in its verdict, which came as a surprise to many.

According to a court statement, the convention's Article 5.3 was not meant to “give the authorities the opportunity to step up their investigations for the purpose of bringing formal charges against the suspects.”

In 2008, French luxury yacht the Ponant was hijacked off the coast of Somalia by a dozen men armed with rocket launchers. They kept about 30 hostages for a week until they received a $2 million ransom. The day the ransom was delivered to the port town of Garacad, six Somalis were arrested and detained for a week in mid-April.

In another accident in September, the French yacht Carre d'As was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden and two French citizens kidnapped, with the pirates demanding another $2 million in ransom. They had originally demanded $4 million, but subsequently halved their price, demanding the release of six other pirates held in Paris.

Ten days later, a French commando squad freed the hostages and arrested six suspects. Those men were held from September 16 to September 25, before formally being brought before a judge in France. Nine of the 12 suspects were convicted in the hijackings.

At their peak of their activity, in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages, some onshore and others aboard their vessels, as well as 32 seized boats, according to AFP. In the last three years Somali piracy has declined thanks to armed international vessels conducting anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast.