Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: Learning from the Seychellois prosecution model

In the context of its Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), from 19 to 20 October 2015 in Victoria, Seychelles, UNODC brought together judges, prosecutors and legal experts from three countries - Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo - to devise the necessary actions for developing a piracy prosecution center in the aforementioned Gulf of Guinea countries, gleaning inspiration from the Seychellois example.

The meeting first convened the 9 participants in the Seychellois piracy prosecution center - Regional Fusion Center and Law Enforcement Safety and Security (REFLECS 3) - to show them the first element of the model, that of intelligence collection. This experience allowed the participants to consider the functions of the center and the authorities that need to be approached. In Togo, for example, the National Maritime Prefecture has been identified as the competent authority for the development of such a center.

One of the most important meetings took place at the Palace of Justice with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Honourable Justice Mathilda Twomey. During this event, participants exchanged directly on the modalities of piracy trials, with a sharing of information between Seychellois prosecutors and those of the three countries invited. In addition, participants visited the courtroom built by UNODC, where piracy prosecution cases are held. On the afternoon of the first day, participants had the opportunity to visit the 'Montagne Posée' prison - whose construction was partially funded by UNODC - and which has been adapted to accommodate pirates sentenced to years of imprisonment. This component of the model was therefore presented to the participants, as well as problems and solutions ranging from education and training to relations with prisoners and their repatriation once detention ended.

Mr Sernia (UNODC) shows participants the skiffs used by pirates in East Africa, used as evidence during the Seychellois trials

On the second day of the workshop, participants met Mr. Charles Bastienne, Interior Minister, to receive more information on the model and to understand the importance of political support for establishing such a model in the respective countries. They later met with the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ernest Quatre, to analyze the procedures followed such as on collection evidence or the chain of custody, paying particular attention to the elements necessary to establish certainty.

Honourable Justice Burhan, Judge of the Supreme Court of Seychelles, presents the courtroom to Mr. Poyodi, Chief Prosecutor of the Togolese Republic

Towards the end of the visit, one of the leading figures in the establishment of the Seychelles model, Mr. Ronny Govinden (Attorney General), met with the participants to clarify the role of the prosecutor and the judicial system in the development of the model. In terms of concrete results, all participants quickly realized that each country present will need to implement legal reforms in order to pursue more effectively the perpetrators of crimes committed at sea. This event, made possible thanks to the contribution of the government of Norway, concluded with a press conference during which journalists questioned each delegation.

The UNODC's Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) works with the countries most affected by maritime crime, animating training workshops, convening experts for coordinating meetings and providing advice on legal reform. An upcoming workshop for Nigerian judges, prosecutors and policy legal advisors will take place in Abuja in January 2016.

For more information:

UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP)

UNODC's activities on maritime crime and piracy

2014 UNODC Maritime Crime Programme Annual Report

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea