The Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg [official website, in German] on Friday issued sentences for 10 Somalis who were involved in the hijacking the German freighter MS Taipan off the coast of Somalia two years ago. The defendants, ranging in age from 19–50, were found guilty on charges of kidnapping and conducting an attack on maritime traffic. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to seven years. The trial was the first piracy trial in Germany in 400 years [JURIST report]. It was also one of the longest trials in Germany since World War II, with language issues and age verification of the defendants delaying trial progress. The defendants had argued for leniency throughout the trial, citing political instability in Somalia and the surrounding region as a factor influencing their conduct. Critics have argued that the expensive trial [Der Spiegel commentary] will not have any meaningful effect on piracy in the Somali region.
A number of countries around the world have taken actions in the attempt to solve the problem of maritime piracy. Earlier this week an appeals court in Kenya concluded that Kenyan courts have jurisdiction [JURIST report] to try international piracy suspects. In July the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported that the number of global pirate attacks fell sharply [JURIST report] in the first half of 2012, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre [official website] (PRC) having received reports [materials] of 177 incidents in the first six months of this year, compared to 266 incidents for the same period in 2011. In May a United Arab Emirates court sentenced 10 Somali pirates [JURIST report] to 25 years in prison. Also that month six accused Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in a Paris court in connection with the 2008 hijacking of the cruise ship Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden.The US government in March handed over [JURIST report] 15 suspected Somali pirates it captured in January to the Republic of Seychelles for prosecution. Last October the UN Security Council adopted a resolution encouraging states to criminalize and punish piracy after maritime piracy hit an all time high [JURIST report] in 2010. The UN has also donated $9.3 million to fund piracy courts [JURIST report] in Kenya and the Seychelles, the only two nations with such unique judicial bodies.