The Netherlands District Court of Rotterdam [official website, in Dutch] on Tuesday commenced [press release, in Danish] the first European trial of Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] under charges of "sea robbery" for hijacking a cargo ship registered in the Netherlands Antilles. The five accused Somali pirates were arrested last year during an attempt to forcibly board the cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden after a Danish navy frigate sunk the pirates' boat. One defendant wept during his testimony, claiming [AP report] that the severe poverty in Somalia had driven him to piracy. The trial is scheduled to last five days, and the judgment is scheduled to be handed down in June. If convicted, the pirates could face a maximum of 12 years in prison.
The international community is supporting actions taken against piracy. Yemen's Ministry of Defense announced last week that a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death [JURIST report] and six additional pirates to 10-year jail sentences for the hijacking of a Yemeni oil tanker in April 2009. Earlier this month, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [office website] announced that the island nation of Seychelles will create a UN-supported center [JURIST report] to prosecute suspected pirates. This will be the second such court established for the prosecution of pirates, following only Kenya. Last month, the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. The Security Council resolution came the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia.