Why pirates received compensation
Payments caused uproar, but the reasoning is simple.
Why Somali pirates got damages from Strasbourg
Ali Samatar and others v. France, 4 December 2014, ECtHR, Fifth Section,read judgment
There is a good deal of froth about this case in the media, with little of it looking at what our pirates got their damages for. I also suspect that some of the hostility comes from elements who may not wish to trouble themselves with a judgment only in French. So let’s have a quick look at what the case was actually about.
The surrounding facts are terrifying but France’s liability to pay damages occurred for mundane reasons, as we shall see.
On 4 April 2008, a large (88m – see pic) French cruising yacht, Le Ponant, was hijacked by twelve Somali pirates armed with AK47s and rocket launchers. 30 crew were taken hostage. After clearing it with the Somali government, France sent the military in. On 11 April, the hostages were ransomed for $2,150,000, whilst Le Ponant was moored in the port of Garaad. An SUV speeding out of Garaad was then apprehended by 5 or 6 helicopters, and 6 men (the applicants) were arrested. Of these 6, 4 were to be convicted of piracy, and 2 (Al Samatar and Said) were acquitted by the French Courts. All were to receive damages of €2,000 each from Strasbourg. So when I say “Somali pirates,” you will of course understand that I mean either pirates or pirate suspects – a fair suspicion, I suppose, in that all 6 were in the fast moving SUV.
Their claims were for breach of Article 5(3) of the ECHR, and in particular the duty on the state to bring detainees before a judge “promptly” – and Article 5(5) confers an express right of compensation for breach of the Article.
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