Wounded pirate discharged from Ghana hospital on trial in Denmark

A Nigerian pirate who was wounded in a gun battle with Danish navy on patrol in the Gulf Guinea has been discharged from the International Maritime Hospital in Tema, Ghana, where he was being held under police guard and taken to Denmark to face trial. He appeared in court in the Danish capital, Copenhagen Friday January 7, 2022 charged with the attempted manslaughter of Danish soldiers.

The 29-year-old Lucky Ogenovo Francis, was admitted on December 19, 2021 at the hospital where surgery was performed on him after he complained of severe pain.

Francis was wounded when naval forces on a Danish frigate HDMS Esbern Snare on an international anti-piracy mission patrolling in the Gulf of Guinea engaged pirates in a gun battle on November 24, 2021. Four other suspected pirates were killed in the exchange and three others taken into custody on the frigate – also believed to be Nigerians.

The Reuters news agency citing the Danish Armed Forces said the three captured pirates have been released because the Danish navy said it couldn’t find any country to accept them. The three who were held onboard the Danish frigate Esbern Snare were said to have been put on a dingy boat with enough food and fuel so they can reach shore safely.

The Danish Justice Minister, Nick Hakkerup was quoted in a statement saying, “They have no relation in Denmark and the crime they have been charged with was committed far from Denmark. They simply do not belong here, and that’s why I think it’s the right thing to do.”

There were initial expectations that the wounded pirate might be tried in Ghana. But, a maritime law expert has told Ghana Business News that Ghana would have difficulties with successful prosecution.

According to Dr Kamal-Deen Ali of the Centre for Maritime Law and Security, from the point of view of international law, piracy is a crime of universal jurisdiction- much as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“What this means is that every state in the world (including Ghana) can prosecute the crime of piracy irrespective of where it takes place and the nationality of the suspect. But to do so however, Ghana must have all the relevant domestic legislation to do so. Under our constitution and criminal jurisprudence, crime must be defined and the punishment provided. Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act, Act 29, 1960, provides for piracy in Sections 193-195. But the definition in those sections, is antiquated and does not fit well into modern day piracy.

So we need to amend our law. It was for this same reason that we could not try the eight or so Nigerian pirates that were arrested onboard the MT Mariam in 2015. After detaining them for almost one year, the Attorney-General and Ghana Police had to send them back to Nigeria,” he said.

“There are other considerations also why prosecution will be difficult, even assuming our law was up to date; evidence, witnesses, etc,” he added.

There is an increase in the activities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, costing lives and causing financial losses to countries.

With this development involving the Danish navy, it would be curious to see how the international involvement and coordination of armed activities to respond to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea would play out.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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