The French authorities were ordered to pay the pirates between 2,000-5,000 euros damages plus legal costs each.
The men were captured by French soldiers in 2008 in two separate hijackings of French boats – the Ponant and the Carré d’As – 6,000 kilometres from French territory, which the European court acknowledged amounted to exceptional circumstances.
But the court complained that it took 48 hours to bring the pirates before a judge once they arrived on French soil and that the delay constituted a "violation of their rights to freedom and security".
Maritime law expert Michel Quimbert described the authorities’ behaviour as inexcusable.
“They try to get the first elements of the case while they are detained without charge, that’s a practise that can’t be justified,” he told RFI. “It’s pretty easy when people are in a position to be presented to an independent judicial authority to do so.”
The pirates’ lawyer Antonin Levy said that he hopes the ruling will have a long-term impact on French custody law.