14 July 2011

"Piracy Trial" out in the open: a Somali expert gives evidence

Press Invitation for a public hearing of an expert from Somalia

Friday, 15 July 2011, 12:15 pm outside the Hamburg Criminal Justice Building (Sievekingplatz) with Political Scientist Abdulahi Mohamud Qalimow

So far, the court has made no effort whatsoever to hear expert witnesses from the Somali region. In order for at least the public to be informed and to give an expert from Somalia the opportunity to speak, a number of groups are having a public hearing outside the court building. These groups include No-One Is Illegal, Third World Harbour Group and the One World Network Hamburg, who have been closely watching the trial against the ten Somali.

Political Scientist and project manager Abdulahi Mohamud Qalimow now lives in Zurich. Before he fled Somalia in the mid 90s he started a school project in the south of the country, which he still looks after. He maintains many contacts with Somalia and Kenya, as well as with the Somali diaspora in Europe. Qalimow is a director of the Organisation for Social Welfare and Rural Development in Somalia (SOWRDO) and of the Somali Society in Switzerland. On July, 15 he will be answering questions regarding the situation in Somalia as well as the trial. This will – at least outside the court – contrast the Euro-centric viewpoint of the witnesses that have been heard in court with the statements of an expert from Somalia.

Since November 2010, the so-called piracy trial has been taking place in Hamburg: ten Somali men – three of them under age – are accused of having attacked the container vessel MV Taipan in April 2010. The ship is owned by Hamburg company. During 38 trial dates so far, the accused had to listen to seven white European expert witnesses.

Three forensic experts think that they can determine the age of the accused with dubious and humiliating methods. The birth certificates and school records of the accused do not count in a German court. The European “experts”, who have given evidence on the social and economic situation in Somalia leave many questions unanswered. With their half-knowledge obtained from the internet or without citing their sources altogether, these so-called experts evaluate the the social conditions in Somalia and play their part in deciding how the alleged crimes will be judged.

The choice of expert witnesses demonstrates the continuation of colonial practices and attitudes in a frightening way. Other practices, like the fact that the juvenile accused have been remanded in prison for over a year, also shows the double standards of the court. Were the accused German, they would have been released a long time ago.

Germany's imperial tradition is also continued in the involvement, together with other European nations, in the ATALANTA mission, which protects trade ships with military means. While those responsible for the plunder of Somali fishing grounds and the dumping of toxic waste there go unpunished, ten impoverished Somali men are being trialled. Under the UN Maritime Convention, all three activities are illegal – but only one of them is being prosecuted.