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Malaysia: Seven Alleged Pirates Charged with Firearms Offenses

(Feb. 16, 2011) On February 11, 2011, Malaysian prosecutors filed charges against seven Somali nationals who had been captured by Malaysian naval forces in the Gulf of Aden on January 20, 2011. (Seven Somalis Face Death Sentence Under Firearms Charge, BERNAMA (Feb. 11, 2011),

The seven men and boys (three of the accused are 15 years old) are accused of using firearms against the navy personnel, who had stormed a hijacked chemical tanker and rescued the 23 members of the crew. The vessel, the MT Bunga Laurel, was being operated by a Malaysian company but was owned by a Japanese firm. The crew was Filipino and the cargo of lubricating oil worth more than US$10 million was bound for Singapore. (Somalia 'Pirates' Charged in Malaysia, BBC NEWS (Feb. 11, 2011),

The seven have been charged with discharging a firearm during the commission of an offense with the intent to cause death or injury under section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971. (Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, available at This offense carries the death penalty on conviction, which in Malaysia is carried out by hanging. (BERNAMA, supra.) The charges also refer to section 34 of the Malaysian Penal Code, which provides that “[w]hen a criminal act is done by several persons, in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone.” (Penal Code (Act No. 574), § 34, available at, the prosecutor stated that the three 15-year-olds would not face execution, because they were minors. (Malaysia Is Asia's First to Charge Somali Pirates, THE STRAITS TIMES (Feb. 11, 2011),

This is the first time that charges have been brought against Somali pirates by a country within the Asia region. (Id.)The prosecutor filed a document under section 127A(1) of the Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code stating that, because the offenses had been committed against Malaysian citizens and had affected Malaysia's security, the accused could all be tried in Malaysia. (BERNAMA, supra; Malaysia Charges 7 Somalis for Piracy, CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM (Feb. 11, 2011),
; Criminal Procedure Code (Act No. 593), § 127A (Liability for offences committed out of Malaysia), available at No pleas were entered by the accused, and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 15, 2011. (THE STRAITS TIMES, supra.)

The head of the International Marine Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (a free service based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that provides a point of contact for shipmasters to report attacks and raises awareness of areas of high risk), Noel Choong, commended the decision to prosecute the pirates, saying that “[i]n our view, this is exactly what should be done and if this kind of action is taken, then we would see a reduction in the scale and violence of the attacks.” (CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM, supra.)