The European Court of Human Rights has ordered France to pay compensation to Somali pirates worth thousands of euros for failing to present “promptly” the accused men before a judge upon their arrival to the country.
The 48-hour delay was deemed by the Court as violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The case concerns nine Somali nationals, who, having hijacked French-registered vessels off the coast of Somalia were arrested and held by the French army, then transferred to France, where they were taken into police custody and prosecuted for acts of piracy.
The pirates were charged, with some even convicted of hijacking a French-flagged cruise ship and yacht in two separate incidents in 2008.
The French Government explained that the applicants’ period in police custody had been necessary for the purposes of the investigation.
According to the ruling, in both cases, referring to its case-law4, the Court was prepared to admit that “wholly exceptional circumstances” explained the length of the applicants’ detention between their arrest and their arrival in France.
However, the Court pointed out that its case-law to the effect that periods of two or three days before the initial appearance before a judge did not breach the promptness requirement under Article 5 § 3 was not designed to afford the authorities an opportunity to intensify their investigations for the purpose of bringing formal charges against the suspects.
As a result, the Court said that there was nothing to justify that additional delay in either of the two cases.
France was ordered to pay between EUR 5,000-2,000 (USD 6,100-2,500) to each pirate for “moral damages”, plus amounts varying from EUR 3,000-9,000 (USD 3,700 -11,200) to cover legal costs.