Seychelles to transfer pirates to Somalia

Last Updated: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 23:57

Montagne Posee (Seychelles): Like the other 92
Somali pirates held in the Seychelles` hilltop prison, where
inmates can glimpse a small, tantalising slice of this island
nation`s crystal blue water, Ali Mohammed insists he is
innocent.

"No pirates. Fishermen," the tall, wiry 50-year-old
insisted.

The tiny island nation of the Seychelles is punching far
above its weight in the fight against Somali piracy. Pirates
make up 20 per cent of the 500-person prison population in the
main Montagne Posee Prison. International navies dock on the
islands. The US flies aerial surveillance drones from here.

And the Seychelles is one of the few countries in the region
currently taking pirates to trial.

In a new development, 19 Somali pirates imprisoned in the
Seychelles are scheduled to be transferred to the northern
Somali region of Somaliland. The breakaway northern enclave of
Somaliland has a stable, elected government and the UN Office
on Drugs and Crime paid USD 1.5 million to refurbish a prison
there so it would meet international standards.

Navies have dropped off pirates for prosecution in
Somalia before, said Alan Cole, a lawyer who works with the
UN`s anti-piracy programme. But the transfer would mark the
first transfer of convicted prisoners back to Somalia, a
necessary step to prevent regional prisons from becoming
further overcrowded.

Seychelles President James Michel and Somaliland
President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo said the February agreement is
an important step in establishing a sustainable justice
programme that will see suspected pirates apprehended by naval
forces, prosecuted by regional states and imprisoned in
Somalia.
"That, in the piracy world, is quite a breakthrough if it
happens," said Britain`s top diplomat here, Matthew Forbes,
who also serves as a liaison in the Seychelles for the EU`s
anti-piracy naval force.

The transfer would also mark a break from disasters like
a botched 2009 prisoner-for-hostages swap. The Seychelles
secretly sent a plane with 23 suspected pirates to northern
Somalia in return for three of its citizens taken hostage by
Somalia. But local authorities had not been informed of the
deal, and impounded the plane with security officials onboard.

The international community has been helping Seychelles
become a centre of the anti-pirate fight. Britain and
Seychelles announced last month the creation of a Regional
Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Center,
an USD 875,000 UK-funded initiative that will gather
intelligence to provide evidence for regional and global
pirate prosecutions.

"The principle of burden-sharing in the fight against
piracy is very important. Seychelles does not have the
resources to fight piracy alone; we need the support of the
international community both in terms of assets and capacity
building," said President Michel.

PTI



First Published: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 23:56

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