Seychelles has condemned the early release of 19 convicted pirates who were sentenced in the island nation and transferred to Somalia to complete their sentences, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Somaliland authorities on Thursday released the convicts, who were sentenced in Seychelles to serve 30, 36 and 42 years in prison for piracy.
In 2011, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the transfer of sentenced pirates between the government Somaliland and Seychelles. In 2012, 19 convicts were transferred into the custody of the Somaliland authorities where the pirates were to complete their sentences.
The government of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, formally wrote to the Somaliland authorities, expressing its strong disapproval of the early release.
“The announcement came as a surprise for us because it is an action that has been taken without consultation with the government of Seychelles. It is against the MoU that we signed with the Somaliland authorities,” said Ian Madeleine, the director of Maritime Affairs at Seychelles’ Department of Foreign Affairs.
The unilateral decision by the Somaliland authorities to modify the sentences of the convicted pirates is in breach of the provisions of the agreement which states that the power to review the judgment or sentences remains with Seychelles, Madeleine said.
Seychelles with the special jurisdiction to handle piracy and maritime crime cases started hearing cases in June 2015.
In May this year, the Seychelles Supreme Court formally charged five suspected Somali pirates who were transferred to Seychelles by EU NAVFOR. One of the pirates had been arrested and transferred to the Seychelles’ authorities in November 2017 and was repatriated in December 2018.
The Department said, “Seychelles has also written to Mauritius and the Indian Ocean Commission as the Chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to call on the support of the international community to condemn the early release of the 19 Somali pirates by the Somaliland authorities and to bring the matter to the attention to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council.”
Madeleine explained that such a decision endangers the efforts done to fight against piracy and puts at risk the security of the Indian Ocean.
The decision also compromises the extensive collective efforts of the international community to combat and suppress piracy off the coast of Somalia in order to guarantee the safety and security of the Western Indian Ocean. It equally stands to erode the mechanisms, including arrest, prosecution and imprisonment that has been put in place to combat the scourge of piracy and other forms of illicit crimes, the department said.
The situation consequently stands to annul the cooperation that exists between the parties in relation to the repatriation of sentenced pirates on humanitarian grounds, the department said.