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EU Court Orders France To Compensate Somali Pirates

Zodiac commando boats arrive at the rear of the French luxury yacht Le Ponant, whose crew was held hostage by pirates, in April 2008. The French navy frigate Le Commandant Bouan is seen in the background, off Somalia's coast.

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered France to pay up to 7,000 euros in compensation to each of nine Somali pirates who were detained after hijacking two French yachts in the Gulf of Aden in 2008.

Some of the pirates seized the 290-foot luxury yacht Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden, taking hostage 30 people, including 22 French nationals. Others were involved in hijacking the second vessel, a 50-foot sailboat. French commandos retook both vessels in separate raids, months apart, after ransoms amounting to about $2 million were paid in each incident.

The ECHR ruled Thursday that under the European Convention on Human Rights, the pirates — who were held for several days before being transferred to France — should have been brought before a French judge "without delay."

The convention's Article 5.3 "was not designed to give the authorities the opportunity to intensify their investigations for the purpose of bringing formal charges against the suspects," a court statement said.

France 24 says:

"France was ordered to pay between €5,000 and €2,000 [$6,100 and $2,500] to each pirate for 'moral damages,' plus amounts varying from €3,000 to €9,000 [$3,700 and $11,200] to cover legal costs.

"In the ruling, published in French, the court nevertheless acknowledged that there were 'completely exceptional circumstances' to justify a lengthy detention before seeing a judge, noting that the original arrests took place 'more than 6,000 kilometres [4,000 miles] from French territory.' "

At the time of the arrest of the nine Somalis, piracy off the Horn of Africa was a growing problem. A U.S.-led crackdown in recent years has resulted in a steep drop in incidents in the region.

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