LUXEMBOURG, Apr 26 – The European Union offered support on Monday to Kenya and the Seychelles to continue to judge and jail suspected Somali pirates, as Nairobi moves to cancel agreements on their prosecution.
EU defence ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, "welcomed the crucial contributions being made by Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles" to detain and prosecute suspected pirates caught by the bloc\’s naval mission, Atalanta.
"The council asked that all efforts be made to support Kenya and the Seychelles in their important roles, and recalled the EU\’s readiness to step up the dialogue and continue to provide assistance," they said in a statement.
EU nations are reluctant to try suspects captured by the force in busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden but the bloc cannot send them to any country where they might face abuse or the death penalty.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton would visit Kenya and other countries in the region "to find ways and means to prolong the justice activities of our maritime action off Somalia".
No date has been set for her trip.
Kenya has formally announced that it wants to stop prosecuting suspected Somali pirates and cancel the agreements it has to that effect with several naval powers.
The Kenyan authorities have sent "cancellation notes" to at least two of those powers\’ diplomatic representations in Nairobi, arguing it could no longer bear the burden on its prison and court systems.
Kenya has memoranda of understanding with the European Union, United States, Canada, Denmark, China and United Kingdom whereby it takes in suspects intercepted at sea and prosecutes them in courts in Mombasa.
"Two agreements have been cancelled with the embassies of Denmark and of the United Kingdom. I am also expecting to receive a similar letter," Eric van der Linden, head of the EU delegation in Kenya, told AFP.
More than 100 suspects have been transferred to Kenya by the Western and other warships patrolling the Indian Ocean to combat piracy.
Kenya, with the Seychelles the only littoral state that has agreed to take in suspects for prosecution, has recently complained that the strain on its over-populated prisons and congested courts was too heavy.
The Seychelles last month agreed to take in suspects for prosecution but has an even more limited capacity and insists that convicted pirates be taken back to Somalia to serve their sentences.
The EU has also opened negotations with five other countries in the region, including South Africa and Tanzania, in the hope of forging agreements on trying piracy suspects.