Minister: Tanzania can now prosecute piracy cases

Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs

Offenses related to piracy will now be prosecuted in local courts, following recent settlement of legal frameworks that will facilitate fair prosecution, Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mathias Chikawe said.

Such offences were prosecuted in Kenya and Seychelles on a special embargo, the minister told The Guardian in Dar es Salaam in a recent exclusive interview.

He said prosecution of piracy suspects along the Indian Ocean coast was done according to special agreement that had to be entered between the countries sharing the ocean’s waters before the accused are arraigned.

“Prosecution was only administered in Kenya and Seychelles which had already ratified international conventions covering a bilateral agreement that Tanzania is yet to enter.

Recent years have witnessed a series of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean waters believed to be Somali Islamists who hijack ships.

The perpetrators also demanded lots of money from the shipping companies in ransom, threatening international shipping since the second phase of Somali civil war in the early 21st century,

Many international organisations, including the International Maritime Organisation and the World Food Programme have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy since 2005, calling on the countries bordering the ocean to join forces against pirates.

Piracy has impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing up to $6.9 billion a year in global trade according to statistics report by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), insurance companies have profited from the pirate attacks, as insurance premiums have increased significantly.

A United Nations report and several news sources have suggested that piracy off the coast of Somalia was caused in part by illegal fishing.

According to DIW and US House Armed Services Committee, the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels also severely constrained the ability of local fishermen to earn a living.

In response, the fishermen began forming armed groups to stop the foreign ships. They eventually turned to hijacking commercial vessels for ransom as an alternative source of income.

In 2009, a survey by Wardheer News found that approximately 70 per cent of the local coastal communities at the time “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defense of the country’s territorial waters.”

The pirates said they were protecting their fishing grounds and exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen.

By the end of 2011, pirates managed to seize only four ships off the coast of Somalia, 22 fewer than the 26 they had captured in each of the two previous years. They also attempted unsuccessful attacks on 52 other vessels, as of 18 October 2013, the pirates were holding 1 large ship and an estimated 50 hostages.

According to another source, there were 151 attacks on ships in 2011, compared with 127 in 2010, but only 25 successful hijacks compared to 47 in 2010. Pirates held 10 vessels and 159 hostages in February 2012.

In 2011 pirates earned $146m, an average of $4.87m per ship. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 pirates operated.  By February 2012 1,000 had been captured and were legally prosecuted in 21 countries.

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