Editorial: how much more left to live as inmates in India?

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Illustration: Urmas Nemvalts

After over two long years in India, the five year prison sentence was bad news for ship guards and loved ones. And to all of us hoping for the best. 

It’s probably practical for Estonia’s foreign minister and officials not to criticize the decision by Indian judges at the moment, rather opting to see what to do to help them and bring the guys home. Humanly, it is hard to see the judgement and the Kafkaesque process as just and relevant. Looks like these people got caught in the cogwheels of life.

While apprehended, the men were in a floating hotel so to speak – in the base vessel where the guards spend their time between two tasks on duty. As guests, they took no decision where the ship was to go, and it is at least questionable if it indeed was in India’s territorial waters. Meanwhile, their employer stranded them in India.

During their unpleasant «adventure» Estonia has helped the men with unguaranteed loans so they could hire lawyers and cover costs of daily living. Such loan is not the usual yet justified under the circumstances.

Broadly, ship guard teams have done a fruitful and vital job on the seas, helping the global trade to function. During the second half of last decade, piracy emerged as a serious hazard off the Somali coast – yearly, dozens of vessels were seajacked and hundreds of sailors kidnapped, of whom some were killed. EU launched its joint naval operation Atalanta with Estonian servicemen participating. Thanks to that and activities of multiple nations including India was a factor that landed piracy a blow from which it never recovered. During these two past years, rare have been the seajackings (with the exception of an Iranian fishing vessel in November 2015).

But turning a blind eye to input of private security companies would be a mistake. Why not complement international law with agreements to exclude ship guard teams encountering such situations in the future?

Cartoon: Yap, let's jail 'em Estonians!