A Uruguayan criminal court found no merit to continue investigating into incidents allegedly occurred in a Chinese flagged fishing vessel following on claims of 'slavery', ill treatment and beatings, presented by 28 African crewmembers.
Prosecutor Dora Domenech said that the testimonies collected were not enough to support charges of 'slave-labor' on board the Chinese vessel which docked in Montevideo over a week ago. The captain of the vessel, under custody, was allowed to leave the country.
Yes, what can be said is that there was clearly a clash of cultures referred to food and working times said Prosecutor Domenech and since the alleged claims happened in the high seas, outside Uruguayan territorial waters the country's criminal justice does not have competence to continue investigating.
However the prosecutor said that labor compensation demands, since there are claims from both sides, the crew members and the contracting company should not be discarded.
Regarding the injuries because of ill treatment claimed by some of the African crew members the prosecutor said it was very difficult to prove their origin, but we can be sure they did not happen in Uruguay waters. Likewise the court spent a lot of time and money looking into the claims.
The 28 crewmembers are from Sierra Leone and Ghana and are currently living in Uruguay Coast Guard barracks. A report said that 20 of them have been discharged from medical attention while eight are still taking antibiotics.
Uruguay's Fishermen union solicitor Isabel Camarano said she anticipated the ruling, anyhow was surprised by the diligence with which the criminal court acted.
The case should have been addressed by the Complex Crimes Department and not by a criminal court said Camarano who added that the court only questioned 12 of the 28 crew members.
They were fed on rice and non drinkable while the Chinese had bottled water and rice with shrimps and sauces, claimed the solicitor.
According to Uruguayan Navy sources on arrival of the Chinese fishing vessel crewmembers complained about 'irregularities' in compensation pay and were recommended to make their case before the Labor Ministry.
However the Uruguayan fishermen's union together with local Afro organizations, decided a criminal court because of the alleged ill treatments and beatings. When the Africans landed all were taken for medical checkups and half of them were discharged on the same idea.