Rights court orders France to pay thousands to Somali pirates
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The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered France to pay thousands of euros to Somali pirates who attacked French ships for "violating their rights" by holding them an additional 48 hours before taking them before a judge.
The Somali pirates were apprehended on the high seas by the French army on two separate occasions in 2008 and taken back to France for trial.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said that French authorities should have brought the pirates before a judge "without delay" when they arrived on French territory after being held at sea. The rights court said French authorities were wrong to keep the pirates in custody for an additional 48 hours before bringing them before a judge.
"Nothing justifies such an additional delay," the court said in its verdict, adding that it constituted a "violation of their rights to freedom and security".
France was ordered to pay between €5,000 and €2,000 ($6,100 and $2,500) to each pirate for "moral damages", plus amounts varying from €3,000 to €9,000 ($3,700 and $11,200) to cover legal costs.
In the ruling, published in French, the court nevertheless acknowledged that there were "completely exceptional circumstances" to justify a lengthy detention before seeing a judge, noting that the original arrests took place "more than 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) from French territory".
Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have declined sharply in recent years, with international fleets now patrolling the Gulf of Aden – previously a hotbed of maritime piracy – and the Indian Ocean, as well as armed guards now being posted aboard many at-risk vessels.
At their peak in January 2011 Somali pirates held 736 hostages, some onshore and others aboard their vessels, as well as 32 seized boats.
The court also noted that the Somali authorities remain "incapable of fighting" the pirates without international help.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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