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Kenya ends agreement with EU to prosecute suspected Somali pirates

By Lillian Leposo, for CNN
  • Foreign Affairs spokeswoman leaves open the possibility the deal could be renewed
  • Kenya receives EU support for its judicial system under the agreement
  • Kenya felt it did not receive adequate support, an EU official says

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenya has terminated an agreement with the European Union to prosecute and imprison suspected Somali pirates, but a spokeswoman for the country's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday left open the possibility that the deal could be renewed.

In the past 16 months, Kenya has tried and imprisoned dozens of Somali pirate suspects under the agreement in return for technical and financial support for its judicial system from the European Union. Kenya also has similar agreements with the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, China and Canada.

But Thorsten Bargfrede, the European Union's head of regional politics, told CNN that the agreement with Kenya was open-ended and included a six-month notice of termination clause.

"Kenya chose to invoke the clause after a series of complaints -- top among them being that the country felt that they did not receive adequate support from the international community and the problem of repatriation once the pirates had served their term," Bargfrede said.

A spokeswoman in Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday that the government did not terminate the agreement, but failed to immediately renew it once the deal expired at the end of September.

Judith Ngunia said the country has set up an interministerial committee to map the way for fresh talks with the European Union.

A group of Kenyan politicians has been widely quoted in the media saying that the country did not get adequate support in fighting pirate suspects. Bargfrede disputed that claim, saying the European Union and its member states have provided more than $10 million in the past year and a half to the region's U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime. The program is designed to support trials and related treatment of piracy suspects in the region.

Most analysts say that Kenya is well-positioned geographically for handing over suspected pirates arrested in the Gulf of Aden and that its fairly robust judicial system would facilitate the prosecutions.

In 2008, the European Union established the EU Naval Force Somalia to help combat rising piracy off the coast of Somalia.

According to a statement on EU NAVFOR's website, the operation has transferred more than 90 suspected pirates to Kenyan authorities for prosecution. In September, 14 men were sentenced to five years in prison.