AG holds key for Kenya to try piracy

Attorney General Justin Muturi. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Attorney General Justin Muturi is expected to give the green light for Kenya to try piracy suspects.

The European Union (EU) wants Kenya and the Seychelles to try the suspects arrested by its naval force which patrols the Indian Ocean.

EU Ambassador to Kenya Henriette Geiger said Seychelles has already completed the agreement.

However, Geiger said that the island nation is too small to deal with the expected high number of suspects arrested by the EU Naval Force.

“Seychelles has already agreed, they already have a legal finished agreement, but it's a small island; they cannot stand alone,” she said.

The focus will also be on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is headed by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Mudavadi’s office is expected to coordinate the signing of the agreement between Kenya and the EU since the arrest and trial of suspects touches on diplomacy.

The envoy explained that the threat posed by the Yemen Houthi rebels was a new one which called for the EU to sign a new agreement with Kenya to try the suspects.

She said that the operation dubbed Atalanta can have the forces intercept and arrest members of suspicious vessels but the challenge they are facing is where to keep the suspects.

“The problem is right now they have to catch and release because they cannot keep the offenders on board for too long,” said Geiger.

If Kenya okays the agreement, then it will not just be home to courts trying the suspects and traffickers but will also be the dropping point of seized arms and drugs confiscated in the region.

However, the envoy said that the EU is also courting other countries to do the same including Tanzania, Mauritius and Djibouti. 

Once arrested the suspects will be handed over to the  Kenya Coast Guard which is headed by former police spokesperson Bruno Shioso.

Shioso will then be tasked to coordinate with other agencies under the National Police Service, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and Prison Services.

When reached for a comment, he directed our questions to the Attorney General's office.

Kenya has in the past been used to try piracy suspects but a Memorandum of Understanding between EU and the country seems to have gone cold since the threat of piracy had gone down until recently when Israel sent troops into Palestine to fight Hamas.

Hamas is recognized as a terrorist group by most countries worldwide and in a bid to protest the incursion the Houthis started targeting ships using the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.

The canal is one of the most important trade routes in the world connecting Europe with Asia, Australia and Africa markets.

The rebels attacked and hijacked several ships in a bid to force Israel to halt attacks and stop its military operation in Palestine.

These threats affected ship traffic in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Eden and the Red Sea.

The interruptions saw international trade take a hit which led to intervention from the US and the UK who attacked some parts of Yemen using air strike attacks early this year.

The Government spokesman Isaac Mwaura, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and the AG did not respond to our inquiries for comment.