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Somali pirates to be tried in Kenya: Appeal Court

Thursday October 18 2012

AFP PHOTO In this file photo, an armed Somali pirate is seen on the coastline in northeastern Somalia.

AFP PHOTO In this file photo, an armed Somali pirate is seen on the coastline in northeastern Somalia. 

By Paul Ogemba

The war on piracy got a major boost after the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that stopped Kenyan courts from trying piracy suspects.

Appellate Judges David Maraga, Otieno Onyango, Alnasir Vishram, Hannah Okwengu and Martha Koome ruled that Kenyan Courts indeed have authority and the jurisdiction to try piracy cases irrespective of the place of the offence and the nationality of the offenders.

“Justice Mohammed Ibrahim made a mistake in holding that our courts lack the power to try piracy cases. Piracy has negative effects on the country’s economy and any state, even if not directly affected by piracy must try and punish the offenders,” said Justice Maraga on behalf of his colleagues.

Justice Ibrahim in November 2010 terminated the prosecution of nine suspected Somali pirates on grounds that Kenyan courts are not conferred with powers to deal with matters which have taken place outside Kenyan territorial waters.

He ruled that the courts did not have jurisdiction in criminal cases where the alleged offence took place outside the geographical area covered by Kenya and ordered the government to repatriate the suspects Mohamud Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, Mohammed Dogol, Abdi Wahid, Abdulahi Omar, Abdiraman Mohammed, Khadir Mohamed, Abdirizak Hassan and Mohammed Ishmael.

The Appellate judges however ruled that Justice Ibrahim had no authority to order the repatriation of the suspects or direct the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to take in the suspects.

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Justice Maraga directed that the suspects be transferred immediately to Mombasa and their prosecution before a magistrate to proceed from where it had stopped.

According to the judges, international law gives any state the authority to try a suspect on crimes of any nature and Kenya being a signatory to International Treaties has the mandate to try the cases.

“Every State has interest of bringing to justice perpetrators of International Crimes including piracy, genocide, apartheid and human trafficking. It was therefore wrong for the judge to hold otherwise since the penal code gives Kenyan courts jurisdiction to try any case,” said Maraga.

They faulted Justice Ibrahim for making an impression that parliament had repealed the law which allowed prosecution of piracy suspects, saying that any offence committed in the High Seas is governed by international law which is part of Kenya’s Law.