The moral high ground

Compensation payments to pirates cause furore.

The moral high ground

By Michael Grey from London

Pirates around the world will be greatly heartened by the award for “moral damages” made by the European Court of Human Rights to a gang of their Somali compatriots whose detention by the French military in 2008 was judged by them to be lacking in legal niceties.

Apparently the French army, which had arrested this bunch on the high seas and taken them all the way back to France to stand trial, took two days longer than they should have done before arraigning them before a magistrate. The court made a separate award for the pirates’ legal costs. Adding insult to injury, the judges then compensated another nine Somali pirates arrested by a Danish warship after attacking the Torm Kansas, for the delay they suffered in 2013 when it took 13 days for them to face a judge in the Seychelles.

There are, perhaps, two ways of looking at such decisions. If the human rights of pirates are deemed more important than those of seafarers (which regrettably seems often to be the case), they will be seen as a triumph of civilised jurisprudence. But to seafarers in the Indian Ocean, on double watches behind their banks of razor wire, with their armed guards insisting that they regularly practice their “citadel drill”, they will be regarded as a disgrace.

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