The Supreme Court of Seychelles [BBC backgrounder] on Monday convicted a group of Somali pirates [JURIST news archive], sentencing them to 10 years in prison. The 11 men were apprehended in the Indian Ocean following the attempted hijacking [BBC report] of a Seychelles coastguard ship in December. The trial began in March [AFP report], after Seychelles amended its criminal code to allow universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] in piracy cases. Eight of the men were convicted of piracy, and three others of aiding and abetting piracy. An additional 29 Somalis are being held [AP report] by the Seychelles government for piracy awaiting either trial or deportation to Somalia. Also on Monday, Seychelles President James Michel [official website] lauded the actions of his government [press release] as a leader on the issue of piracy, creating greater international awareness of the problem. In May, 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. The center will accept and try pirates captured by the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website] off the coast of Somalia and surrounding areas. This will be the second such court established for the prosecution of pirates, following only Kenya. Seychelles has received international support for its actions against piracy through the joint UN, EU Counter-Piracy Program [text, PDF]. The program has also assisted the country in preparing to hold piracy trials.
In June, UNODC announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom in Kenya [JURIST report] that will hear maritime piracy cases as well as cases involving other serious criminal offenses. The courtroom was funded through contributions the UNODC received from donor states including Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the EU and the US. UNODC announced a week prior [JURIST report] that donor states will spend more than USD $9.3 million to fund courts in Kenya and Seychelles that prosecute suspected Somali pirates. The Kenyan government announced in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system and the lack of support that had been promised by the international community. Kenya resumed the adjudication of piracy cases in May after being reassured it would receive additional support. Kenya currently has 123 suspected pirates awaiting trial, the highest number of any country that has agreed to hear piracy cases. Kenyan courts have convicted and sentenced 18 pirates since agreeing to assist in the prosecution of piracy cases. The governments of Mauritania and Tanzania have also expressed their willingness to try suspected pirates [JURIST report].