UNODC hosts simulated trial on maritime piracy case in Nigeria

 

Abuja, 21 October 2020 – Back in May this year, the Nigerian Navy arrested ten persons involved in the hijack of the Chinese fishing vessel Hailufeng II, making it the first case to be prosecuted under the new Nigerian piracy legislation, adopted in 2019.

In order to support Nigeria’s criminal justice response to piracy and maritime crime, UNODC in cooperation with Interpol and with the support of the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), organized a simulated trial of a maritime piracy case. The simulation brought together 44 participants, including prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General and legal officers from different maritime law enforcement agencies. The online simulation took place from 12 to 15 October 2020 and was presided by Honourable Justice Olayinka Faji of the Federal High Court.

The simulated trial featured scenarios from a Guide for the Organization of Simulated Maritime Trial on Maritime Piracy Manual recently developed by UNODC in collaboration with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC), and provided participants an opportunity to discuss the Hailufeng II case and extract initial lessons learned.

 

In addition to testing the legal response of the prosecuting and investigating authorities to piracy, the event highlighted the importance of virtual hearings in the COVID-19 aftermath, as well as challenges which must be addressed to improve the delivery of justice including the need to:

  1. Work creatively with the rules of procedure to allow for effective pre-trial preparation of cases as well as to address issues of admissibility, bail, and full disclosure of evidence to the defense;
  2. Address issues of unstable internet connections, blurred images, distorted speech, background noise, and stuck video images which are all capable of undermining virtual hearings;
  3. Pay specific attention to the technique of examination and cross-examination of witnesses and the submission of oral arguments;
  4. Address issues of admissibility of confessional statements in the final determination of criminal cases to avoid the use of trial within trial which belabour the courts and unnecessarily drag the duration of criminal cases;

UNODC looks forward to continuing its work with the Nigerian justice sector and all other stakeholders through its Global Maritime Crime Programme to strengthen the criminal justice response to piracy and other maritime crimes, particularly by strengthening the evidence chain and technical skills of justice sector practitioners.