Piracy off the Somali coastline has not made a lot of headlines in the recent past. Nevertheless, there are important lessons to be learned from trials against suspected pirates which were often conducted in regional countries.
The Seychelles took a leading role in the prosecution of suspects who had been arrested by international naval forces on the high seas. Jamil Mujuzi, professor at the law faculty in South Africa’s University of the Western Cape, discusses these trials in a recently published article. This is the abstract:
In Seychelles, the general rule is that domestic courts do not have jurisdiction over offences committed abroad. However, there are exceptions to that rule and one of them relates to the offence of piracy committed on the high seas. Section 65(1) of the Seychelles Penal Code creates the offence of piracy which is committed “within Seychelles or elsewhere” and section 65(2) provides that “the courts of Seychelles shall have jurisdiction to try an offence of piracy…whether the offence is committed within the territory of Seychelles or outside the territory of Seychelles.” On the basis of section 65, many suspected pirates have been prosecuted in Seychelles. Closely related to the issue of prosecuting suspected pirates is the question of whether their trial was fair. The right to a fair trial and public hearing is provided for under Article 19 of the Constitution. There are many piracy cases in which Seychellois courts have dealt with the issue of the right to a fair trial. The rights which have featured prominently are: the right to be tried by a competent court and the jurisdiction of Seychellois courts to try piracy committed on the high seas; the right against double jeopardy; the right to examine witnesses and challenge evidence; right to remain silent; the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty; and the right to be informed in detail of the nature of the offence. The purpose of this article is to assess the jurisprudence in question and, where appropriate, suggest ways in which Seychellois courts could better protect the right to fair trial of those accused of committing piracy.
The article has been published in Criminal Law Forum and can be found here.