A Kenyan court on Thursday convicted seven Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] and sentenced them to five years in prison. The group was tried and convicted [BBC report] in the coastal town of Mombasa where they had been held since their capture by a Spanish warship in May 2009 after attempting to attack the Maltese-flagged merchant ship Anny Petrakis. The Spanish warship was part of the the EU Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website], a naval force that has been deployed to deal with the surge of piracy off the coast of Somalia. This group of Somali pirates is just the second of nine [press release] groups of suspected pirates totaling 75 individuals that EU NAVFOR has turned over to the Kenyan authorities since its deployment. Earlier this month, a Kenyan court convicted seven other Somali pirates [JURIST report], giving them the same five-year sentences. The maximum sentence under Kenyan law for piracy is life imprisonment, and EU NAVFOR refuses to turn over suspects unless capital punishment is off the table.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains a major problem despite international efforts to curb it. Though the success rate of pirate attacks has dropped [Montreal Gazette report], the attacks continue. Kenya and Seychelles are the only two African countries that have agreed to try the suspected pirates. In July, a court in Seychelles convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] a group of Somali pirates to 10 years in prison following the attempted hijacking of Seychelles coastguard ship. In June, the UN announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom [JURIST report] in Kenya that will hear piracy cases. The announcement came after the UN announced $9.3 million in donations [JURIST report] to help fund piracy courts in Kenya and Seychelles.