Five Somali men went on trial [Reuters report] Tuesday in a Dutch court on charges of maritime piracy [JURIST news archive] related to hijacking a South African yacht and kidnapping its crew. The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service [official website, in Dutch] spokesman, Wim De Bruin, said [statement, video] the Somalis were between 20 and 30 years old and could face up to 15 years for "sea robbery." The Somalis are accused of hijacking the South African yacht, Choizil, and kidnapping two of its crew members. One of the crew members was rescued by an EU anti-piracy task force while the De Bruin said the other two are still in the custody of pirates. The court is asserting jurisdiction over the suspected pirates under a law that allows it to try cases of international law.
Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that has attempted to try suspected pirates. Last year, a Netherlands court in Rotterdam sentenced five convicted Somali pirates [JURIST report] to five years in prison for hijacking a cargo ship registered in the Netherlands Antilles. The five men were arrested in 2009 during an attempt to forcibly board a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden after a Danish navy frigate sunk their boat. The five men had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report], saying they were fishermen who were seeking help after an equipment malfunction. They also challenged the court's jurisdiction and claimed that the severe poverty in Somalia had driven them to piracy. In rejecting these claims, the court emphasized the growing threat of piracy to international shipping that convicted pirates must face strict consequences. The few countries that have attempted to prosecute them include the US, Germany, Seychelles, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].