The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the traffickers' human rights had been breached because the French authorities did not put the crew of the Panama-registered freighter "Junior" immediately before a judge after they had been escorted to Brest in Britanny.
Intercepted off the coast of Africa in 2008, the "Junior" took 18 days to reach the western port. The crew were then placed in custody for two days before being put before a judge who decided to extend their detention.
That was a breach of their rights, the ECHR's judges decided, because the French authorities could have been able to ensure a hearing as soon as the "Junior" reached shore.
Seven members of the ship's crew were sentenced in 2012 to prison sentences of between 10 and 25 years for their role in shipping a cargo with an estimated street value in excess of 100 million euros ($130 million) from Brazil to Algeria.
Their convictions are currently being reviewed at an ongoing appeal hearing.