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Kenya prosecutors charge suspected Somali pirates

[JURIST] Kenyan prosecutors brought piracy charges Thursday against 18 Somali nationals who were captured at sea by European naval forces over the past two months and handed over to the Kenyan authorities. The suspected pirates [DW report] were captured by French and German forces off the Somali coast, where they allegedly attacked several merchant ships in the area. The European Union (EU) [official website] and Kenya have reached an agreement [EU press release, PDF; JURIST report] that allows EU navies to apprehend alleged pirates and turn them over to Kenyan authorities for prosecution. The agreement contains provisions for the prosecution of piracy suspects, including nine of the Somali pirates charged Thursday, who were captured by German forces [DW report] in March, and "defines modalities" for any capture of suspected pirates in the future. Germany has maintained a presence in the Gulf of Aden as a part of the EU's Naval Forces Atalanta mission to stem pirate activity in the troubled Gulf region. Kenya has become the lead prosecutor of suspected pirates captured by third-party countries within the Gulf of Aden. Also Thursday, the president of the UN-sponsored International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea [official website] said that body is ready to adjudicate piracy cases [AFP report].

Earlier this week, a Somali suspect captured by US naval forces following an attack on the container ship Maersk Alabama [corporate backgrounder] was charged [JURIST report] with piracy-related offenses in a US federal court. Earlier this month, the Commandant of the US Coast Guard called for greater enforcement [JURIST report] of international piracy laws. In November, eight Somalis were charged [JURIST report] in a Kenyan court for piracy after being turned over to Kenyan officials by the British Royal Navy [official website]. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." In January 2006, the US Navy [official website] captured 10 Somali men 200 miles off the coast of Somalia and turned them over to Kenyan courts in Mombasa for prosecution [press release]. In November 2006, each of the 10 men was sentenced to seven years in prison. Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].

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