An Expensive Farce: Germany’s Somali Pirate Trial Is Pointless
When 10 Somali pirates were brought to trial earlier this year in Hamburg, many viewed it as promising a minor victory against lawlessness on the high seas. But the trial has turned into a pointless and expensive circus. The battle against piracy off the Horn of Africa won’t be won in German courtrooms.
The first 100 days of anything new are generally considered an observation period. After that comes the thumbs up or thumbs down.
This week marks the 100th day of the Somali piracy trial in Hamburg, a case of the Federal Republic of Germany versus 10 Somalis who hijacked the German freighter cargo ship MV Taipan in the Indian Ocean in April 2010, armed with AK-47s.
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, sea piracy may be prosecuted in any country, but few Western countries have attempted it. The Hamburg court, though, has taken a self-confident approach to this trial that has drawn international attention, as if saying: We can be global, too.
The regional court in Hamburg has had 100 days to demonstrate the point of transporting defendants from a poverty-stricken, seemingly archaic, lawless country thousands of kilometers in order to put them on trial. But, in the end, there is no point.
Four judges, four lay judges, two prosecutors, 10 other court employees, 20 defense attorneys and three Somali language interpreters — along with numerous expert witnesses on subjects including conditions in war-torn Somalia, the estimation of age through carpal bone analysis, bullet holes and the Urdu language — have jointly managed to bring to light no more than what was known from the start — after all, the 10 defendants were caught red-handed by Dutch marines who stormed the ship.