A Mauritian Court on Friday overturned an earlier ruling and convicted twelve men of piracy over a January 2013 attack on the containership MSC Jasmine in the Indian Ocean.
The conviction was welcomed by the European Union’s ongoing counter-piracy operation EU Naval Force Samalia, which had assisted in capturing the pirates.
The successful conviction came after prosecution lawyers in the Republic of Mauritius challenged an earlier court ruling in November 2014 that had found the men not guilty of attacking the Cypriot-flagged container ship on January 5, 2013 as it transited south in the Indian Ocean.
The conviction marks the first piracy trial held by the Mauritian Court after a transfer agreement enabling those suspected of committing an act of piracy off the coast of Somalia to be transferred to the island nation for prosecution, was signed between the European Union and the Mauritian Government in July 2011.
During the attack, MSC Jasmine’s master put out a distress call to say that his ship had been attacked by a number of men who were armed with rocket propelled grenades, however a private security team on board managed to repel the attack.
After receiving the distress call, counter-piracy warships from NATO and EU Naval Force, together with EU Naval Force’s German maritime patrol aircraft, immediately closed in on area and boarding teams boarded two suspect vessels, apprehending the twelve men. The suspects were transferred to the Republic of Mauritius for prosecution.
The European Union also has a transfer agreement with the Republic of the Seychelles and just last month the Seychellois Court found seven men guilty of attacking the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, MV Nave Atropos, in the Gulf of Aden in January 2014.
These two cases follow another successful piracy conviction this past April when a French court sentenced six Somali men to between 6 to 15 years after they were found guilty of attacking the yacht, Tribal Kat, and the murder of its French skipper, in September 2011.
“I very much welcome the ruling made by the Mauritian Court today and the close cooperation with the EU Naval Force that helped to ensure a successful outcome,” commented EU Naval Force’s Operation Commander, Major General Rob Magowan CBE. “These convictions send a clear message to pirates intent on going out to sea to attack ships – EU Naval Force warships will not hesitate to find and apprehend them and transfer them for prosecution. The EU and counter-piracy partners remain committed to suppressing piracy to ensure seafarers and ships remain safe in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.”
The Mauritian Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Satyajit Boolell SC, commented: “We have played our part as a member of the regional and international communities’ efforts in the fight against piracy. We have ensured that the pirates were given a fair trial, and they were represented by legal counsel throughout the trial. This has been a victory for the international community and the rule of law.”