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Spain proposes international anti-piracy tribunal

Source: Agence France-Presse - Thu 9th Dec 2010

Spain said Wednesday it has proposed setting up an international tribunal to try Somali pirates attacking shipping in the Indian Ocean, and has the backing of NATO, China, India, and Russia.

Defense Minister Carme Chacon told Spain's radio Cadena Ser that she plans to raise the issue with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon when she travels to the United States on Friday.

Pirates off the coast of lawless Somalia have been bagging millions of dollars in ransoms for ships seized in the Indian Ocean in recent years.

Stepped-up patrols by foreign warships as part of the EU's Operation Atalanta mission have led to a rise in arrests of suspected pirates. But they are often released back to Somalia because of the legal limbo surrounding their detention.

Chacon said pirate attacks this year "have dropped from 170 to 120, we have doubled the number of groups held, but we have a legal problem."

"We need to close the matter with an international tribunal in the area capable of punishing these pirates, relocate a Somali court or use some of the international cooperation agencies," she told Cadena Ser.

"It is a Spanish proposal with approval of Operation Atalanta, with NATO and with countries like China, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

"We are all aware of the need for such a court. We can only try them in Spain when Spanish ships are attacked, (but) we need to try them over there."

Last year Kenya began accepting pirates detained by European and US navies for trial but in March the government said it would have to limit prosecutions to prevent the legal system becoming overburdened by the complex cases.

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