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Pirates at sea

Pirates at sea

Somali pirates have more than doubled their efforts in 2009, costing corporations worldwide millions of dollars in damages, while injecting capital in Somalia's poorest communities.

July 28, 2009 8:31 by

It seems like an easy problem to fix. Somali bandits are fishing for ransom money at sea by hijacking slow-moving ships between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

To stop them, navies from around the world have sent warships to police the area – but the pirates have redoubled their efforts instead of giving up.

There have already been more attempted hijackings so far in 2009 than in all of last year, despite the military flotilla that has been collecting in Somalia’s backyard.

European legal experts are even warning that the military approach could backfire. In one instance, the Danish navy caught five Somalis in January after they allegedly attacked a Dutch-flagged ship.

Now the accused pirates are awaiting trial in the Netherlands, and several of them have said they’ll seek asylum in the liberal European state rather than return to beleaguered Somalia.

A prominent Dutch legal expert has warned his government to treat the case carefully because it could encourage Somalis to use capture as a way to migrate to rich Western countries. “These trials may trigger other pirates to let themselves be arrested on purpose,” lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops told Volkskrant newspaper. “The Dutch justice department must be cautious.”

The same advice could apply to the German government, which is being sued by lawyers representing a Somali national recently captured by the German navy. The man was sent to Kenya for trial on piracy-related charges (as have more than 50 other Somalis this year). But because of Kenya’s spotty human rights record, the civil case stipulates that Germany is obliged to try its former captive at home.

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