, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – Kenya has declined to receive three suspected Somali pirates and one corpse held by an Italian warship at the port of Mombasa, arguing that its prison and court systems were overwhelmed.
Police on Friday said a decision had been reached within government ranks to ensure “no more piracy suspects will be tried in the country because it is already overwhelmed with ongoing cases.”
Coast Provincial Police Chief Leo Nyongesa told journalists that “the government has imposed a temporary ban on pirates being brought into the country.”
"Our hands are tied since we have many pirates on trial in Kenya and we cannot accept more at the moment,” Mr Nyongesa told a press conference in his office.
It was is the first time that Kenya – which is one of only two States to have an agreement with Western naval powers for the transfer of suspected pirates – declined to accept the buccaneers.
The three suspected pirates and the dead man arrived in the country late on Thursday aboard an Italian Naval Warship MV Scirocco which docked at the Port of Mombasa.
The Italian frigate Scirocco had interdicted the suspected pirates in high seas and proceeded to sail to Mombasa.
The warship has not been allowed to offload and has been kept waiting since Thursday as authorities engaged in high-level consultations.
"This is a government directive and there is no way we shall bend it to allow the suspected pirates on our soil as for now," the Coast Police chief said.
But even as he spoke, reports indicated that talks were underway in Nairobi and there was a possibility of the pirates being allowed into the country.
At the moment, Kenya has over 100 suspected pirates in custody with 10 serving seven years and nine serving 20 years each in prison.
Since late 2008, Kenya has signed agreements with most major naval powers patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden for transfer and trial of suspects.
The Seychelles recently signed a similar agreement whereby it accepts to hold suspected pirates in its prisons although the small island nation objected that it did not have the capacity to try them.
The laws applying to cases in which suspected pirates who throw their weapons overboard before being captured, are not sufficiently robust to allow swift and efficient prosecution.
The courts in Mombasa – which lack expertise, translators and are already burdened with a huge backlog of domestic cases – have only convicted 19 pirates in more than a year and are prosecuting more than 100 others.