News / Africa

EU Wants Africa Trials for Horn Pirates

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The European Union is making a push for African trials of suspected Somali pirates after Kenya indicated it no longer wants to shoulder that burden.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to travel to Africa shortly to make a strong case for trying suspected Somali pirates on their home continent. The Associated Press reports her trip will includes stops in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Seychelles.

The question of where and how to bring the suspects to justice is a long-standing headache. Somalia lacks a functioning government, so a number of trials have instead taken place in nearby Kenya. But Nairobi recently stopped accepting suspects, saying they were straining its already congested justice system.

In rare cases, Western nations have agreed to bring the suspected pirates to trial in their own countries. Germany, for example, is waiting to receive half a dozen alleged pirates.

But Africa analyst at the Chatham House policy center in London, Roger Middleton, says that is the exception.

"There has been a reluctance to take them back, although they have the legal ability to do that, to the U.K. or America or whatever it is," said Middleton. "I think partly because they are worried about pirates claiming asylum and potentially bringing their families over. "

Middleton believes both African and Western nations should share the burden of trying the pirates. Others believe Western nations should help beef up justice systems in Somalia's quasi-autonomous regions, Somaliland and Puntland, so the pirates can be tried close to home.

But there is at least one piece of good news. The International Maritime Bureau reports piracy attacks worldwide have fallen by a third this year, largely because of tougher anti-piracy measures.

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