On one of the highest peaks on a mountain in the Seychelles sits an old single story prison, this overcrowded building hosts 92 pirates at the last count and has now become vital in the British fight against piracy from Somalia and other African areas. The archipelago in the Indian ocean became key in combating piracy last year when its government altered law regarding the prosecution of suspected pirates. The Seychelles altered their policy to allow any pirates captured beyond their territorial waters to be prosecuted and since then requests have been made by several governments to have their captured pirates put to trial there.
Some of the requests made have been accepted whilst others have been rejected, this approach seems sensible as its limited prison capacity is already being severely tested. In January a request for pirates to be held and trialled in the Seychelles was made by Danish authorities, however this was rejected due to the large number of captives involved. However earlier this month a request for 15 suspected pirates captured by American naval forces to be convicted in the Seychelles was accepted and they are being held in custody, awaiting trial.
Following the alteration to the laws on piracy, the British government became involved in anti piracy and maritime security efforts in the Seychelles as a part of their war on piracy. Money has been invested in operations in the Seychelles and members of Her Majesty’s Prison Service are working on the islands alongside UK lawyers and other staff. 6 members of the prison service currently work in the Montagne Possé prison, which is also run by a British superintendent. In addition to this 2 lawyers from the crown prosecution service handle all piracy related trials in cooperation with the Seychelles attorney-general.
The addition of these individuals in the Seychelles is part of the British funded “conveyor belt” initiative, aimed at tackling piracy particularly in Somalia. Through the initiative pirates are captured by the British navy, guarded by British prison officers and then trialled by lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service who sentence them to prisons created with UK investment.
The UK government has invested the greatest amount in combating piracy, spending £9 million on training prison staff, improving prison facilities and educating lawyers in Somalia, Kenya and the Seychelles. They have also invested funds in aiding the coast guard and Seychelles police force in order to improve the islands facilities as much as possible. This should be in the interest of all countries fighting the war on piracy as under human rights law, pirates that are arrested at sea must be transferred to countries that will give them a fair trial and house them in prisons of reasonable quality. As the Seychelles now welcome pirates captured globally, creating the best judicial and prison systems on the islands is in the interest of all countries who are effected by the threat of piracy from African nations.