Seychelles sets new global rule for pirates’ cases-• Judge suggests sealing of legal loopholes


31-July-2012

Court officials said this after the Supreme Court judge Duncan Gaswaga sentenced six pirates to seven years imprisonment and a juvenile charged with them to two years.

Seychelles is one of the few countries in the world that have laws modern enough to prosecute pirates found on the high seas.

In his judgement, Mr Gaswaga said after searching previous cases around the world he came across the principle used to convict slave traders because of the equipment they were found with, even when there were no slaves on board their vessels.

In the case of the seven pirates, he said the prosecution has proved the accused were in possession of piratical articles – such as hooked ladders – specially designed for climbing big vessels, as they lay in wait along shipping lanes with the intent to attacking unsuspecting voyagers.

“I should relate the offence here with regard to the element of possession of piratical equipment or articles to that of being in possession of slavery equipment, and draw an analogy since the evidence in this case basically proves the existence of key piratical equipment like ladders. Generally, the crime of possession is an inchoate or incomplete offence the purpose of which is to allow the law enforcement to intercept and arrest individuals whom they suspect will later commit offences.

“Professor Eugine Kontrovich, in his article: Equipment Articles: An international Evidence Rule for Piracy, 1, (Cited in the article: “Can Seychelles criminalise possession of piratical equipment, and apply it to foreign nationals found outside of Seychelles under either universal or protective jurisdiction” by Vijyalakshmi Patel, Case Western Reserve University, School of Law introduces the idea of “equipment articles” which he defines as a “Judicial presumption of guilt of piracy if the crew of civilian vessels [possess] certain specified equipment within a defined area of the high seas plagued by pirate attacks”. “That apprehending and arresting merchant vessels for taking part in the slave trade after slavery had been outlawed was very difficult because the vessels had equipment for slavery but no slaves on board to prove that the ship was involved in the slave trade. I find the following passage/excerpt to be instructive on the matter:

“Therefore, the United States and Great Britain entered into the ‘Treaty for The Suppression of Slave Trade’ of April 7, 1862 which created a list of requirements including who could search and seize a suspected slave ship and its crew could be apprehended, and how to prosecute the offenders.”

He talked of a treaty listing 10 items including water tanks, shackles, rice, plant, mat, boiler, with general size and quantity indications.  For example, one category states ‘one or more boilers, or other cooking apparatus, of the ordinary size’ or ‘a boiler, or another cooking apparatus, of an unusual size, and larger, or capable of being made larger’ than required for the crew of a merchant vessel.

“Another category simply states ‘shackles, bolts, or handcuffs’.  A third category states ‘a larger quantity of water in casks or tanks’ than is required for the crew of a merchant vessel.
“In the light of the nature of evidence adduced in the case, Mr Gaswaga pointed to “the relevant authorities in Seychelles the need to amend the piracy laws to cover or criminalise such activities as cruising on the high seas while in possession of piracy equipment and in search of prey (presumption of piracy).

“In the same vein, Article 15 of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) No. 1846 of December 2, 2008 states the power to create offences and establish jurisdictions in order to suppress and deter piracy.  Therefore, such preventive measures will go a long way in suppressing the full commission of piracy offences and also eliminate loopholes in the law,” he said.

Court officials also told Nation that “another piracy case which also has unique particulars is likely to be concluded this morning before the same judge”.

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