Kenya court rules no jurisdiction over international piracy cases

[JURIST] The high court of Mombasa ruled Tuesday that Kenya does not have jurisdiction outside of its national waters, releasing nine suspected Somali pirates [JURIST news archive]. Citing the repeal of Chapter VIII, section 69 of the Kenyan penal code [text, PDF] as the basis for his decision, Justice Mohamed Ibrahim [official profile] concluded that the suspects, who were arrested in March 2009 in the Indian Ocean by German and US troops, did not violate the territorial waters of Kenya. Section 69 was repealed by the Merchant Shipping Act of 2009 [text, PDF], signed into law in June 2009, which replaced the original penal code language with, in section 371, "any person who (a) commits any act of piracy; (b) in territorial waters, commits any act of armed robbery against ships shall be liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for life." Ibrahim expressed concern for the suspects' safety and ordered that they be put in the custody of the UN High Commission of Refugees. In April, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said that Kenya would no longer accept Somali pirate cases [JURIST report], although there are currently 84 pirates still waiting to be tried [Reuters] in Kenyan courts.

The UN has urged other nations to provide assistance to Kenya in conducting pirate trials and has aided by opening a high-security courtroom and donating USD $9.3 million [JURIST reports] to fund piracy trials. The UN has also considered creating an international tribunal [JURIST report] to take pressure off of Kenya. Earlier this month, Kenya acquitted 17 accused pirates [JURIST report] who were arrested in the Gulf of Aden by the US and South Korean navies. Kenya also convicted two groups of seven pirates in September, on separate occasions [JURIST reports]. Somali pirates have also been tried in the Netherlands, the US, Yemen, Seychelles and Mauritius [JURIST reports], although the bulk of trials still occur in Kenya.

 

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