10 November 2011

One year of “Piracy Trial”: release the juvenile defendants!

Press Release 10 November 2011
One year of “Piracy Trial”: release the juvenile defendants!

Observers of the trial in Hamburg of the ten alleged pirates reiterate their demand for the immediate release of the three juvenile defendants who are still held in custody in Hamburg's youth prison, 'Hahnöversand'. Among the groups observing the trial are No One Is Illegal, the Third World Harbour Group and the One-World Network.

The Commissioner of the European Council for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has repeatedly stated that juvenile defendants in detention are frequently denied access to education and are exposed to violence and abuse. It has also been proven that detention has negative psychological effects which increase the longer the detention lasts.

For the last 18 months, ten Somali have been remanded in custody. They are accused of  having attacked the container vessel MV Taipan. Three of the accused are minors. The trial started almost a year ago, on November 21, 2010. Since then, the accused have spent over 50 days in court. The defence has pointed out that there is no flight risk, that the defendants would oblige with bail conditions and that they would not abscond. Neither the prospect of a long sentence nor the expected uncertain legal status after the sentence would entice the accused to return to Somalia. Somalia is at war and some of the accused have lost contact with their families who had to flee their homes.

All applications to have the juvenile defendants released on bail have been declined. Instead, the court has reacted by ignoring birth certificates and letting a forensic scientist determine their age, and by exaggerating the charges. Last week the prosecution tried to have the case closed, ignoring the requirement to hear the Youth Aid and the juvenile defendants' guardians.

Some of the defence lawyers, together with observers, criticise – among a number of other aspects – the fact that the juvenile defendants are being held in custody for much longer than their German equivalents would be. “Also, they are refused the education they are entitled to according to the youth laws,” said Michaela Goedecke of the group No One Is Illegal in Hamburg. They should be accommodated in accordance with their age.

The trial observers are asking why the juvenile defendants continue to be held in custody. Is it because the court wants to set an example – a practice not allowed in law, and which is also scientifically proven to not to work? Or are the reasons of a racist nature? Or is there an unspoken desire to legitimize the German military operations in the Horn of Africa?

Next trial date: Monday, 14 November 2011,  10 am.