Prison Problems

With a total of 820 Somali pirates behind bars in 16 different countries an international anti-piracy meeting has been assessing new arrangements on the handling of captured pirates.

The international working group’s “mandate was … to find a solution to the (pirate) incarceration problem”, said Thomas Winkler, of the Danish foreign ministry’s judicial service, who heads the working group.

The international community is facing a large challenge of prosecuting and then dealing with the growing number of pirates off Somalia.

“You have to be able to prove that a person is a pirate for him to be prosecuted,” Winkler told said, pointing out that many captured pirates were released due to a lack of evidence.

The working group had been drawing up an international framework to help clarify how the pirates could be imprisoned.

“No country wants two, three, four hundred pirates sitting in their prisons for 15 to 20 years. That’s why the system is clogged,” he said, adding “they simply cannot have (pirates) lounging in the prisons. It is a big burden for their systems.”

More than 100 delegates from about 45 countries and numerous international organisations, including NATO, the UN, the African Union and the European Union, and representatives of the shipping and maritime industries took part in the two-day meeting.

Winkler said the judicial framework, including respect for human rights and for sentences handed down in other countries, could pave the way for the UN-planned construction of two new special prisons for convicted pirates, in Puntland and Somaliland.

The two prisons would cost up to$A29 million and would hold 1000 prisoners, he said, adding that once the money was in place, “the prisons could be finished within a year”.

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