"Arctic Sunrise docked". (Photo: Licensed under Public Domain via WikiCommons)Yesterday, August 24th, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled in favor of the 30 Greenpeace activists that in the in the morning of 18 September 2013 used the vessel Arctic Sunrise to stage a protest action at the Russian offshore oil production platform Prirazlomnaya, located in the Barents Sea in Russia's EEZ. 

The Court "found that by boarding, investigating, inspecting, arresting, detaining, and seizing the Arctic Sunrise without the prior consent of the Netherlands, and by arresting, detaining, and initiating judicial proceedings against the Arctic 30, Russia breached obligations owed by it to the Netherlands as the flag State under Articles 56(2), 58(1), 58(2), 87(1)(a), and 92(1) of the Convention. The Tribunal also found that, by failing to comply with the Order prescribing provisional measures ("Order") issued by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ("ITLOS") in the arbitration, Russia breached its obligations to the Netherlands under Articles 290(6) and 296(1) of the Convention. In addition, the Tribunal found that, by failing to pay the deposits requested by the Tribunal in these proceedings, Russia breached its obligations under Part XV and Article 300 of the Convention."

Therefore, the Tribunal found that the Netherlands is entitled to compensation (with interest) for material damage to the Arctic Sunrise, for material and non-material damage to the Arctic 30, and for the costs incurred by the Netherlands in connection with the issuance of a bank guarantee pursuant to the ITLOS Order. The Tribunal ordered Russia to return objects seized from the Arctic Sunrise and the Arctic 30 and, failing their timely restitution, to compensate the Netherlands for their value. The Tribunal also ordered Russia immediately to reimburse Russia's share of the deposits paid on its behalf by the Netherlands. The Tribunal reserved questions of the quantum of compensation and interest to a later phase of the proceedings." ( You can read the full text of PCA ruling here). 

Greenpeace released yesterday the following press release: 

Russian government broke international law in Greenpeace Arctic 30 case - tribunal (Greenpeace Press release) 

Vienna, 24 August 2015 - An international tribunal today ruled that the Russian government broke international law by boarding a Greenpeace ship and detaining its crew following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling in 2013.
Greenpeace welcomed the verdict and said it hoped the ruling would deter other countries from similar unlawful measures in the future.

Today's ruling states that by boarding the ship and detaining the activists, Russian authorities breached several articles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and owe compensation to the Dutch state as a result.

Responding to the news, Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons said:

"We're pleased about today's ruling because it sets an important precedent. Governments exist to uphold the rule of law, not to act as armed security agents for the oil industry. This kind of behaviour is not limited to the Russian authorities - across the world, environmental activists are facing serious intimidation from those who wish to silence them.

"This protest occurred well outside of Russia's territorial waters and did nothing to satisfy the legal definition of piracy or hooliganism. We hope that this deters other countries from similarly aggressive attempts to stifle dissent, either on land or at sea."

Russian special forces boarded the Arctic Sunrise on September 19, 2013, a day after Greenpeace activists staged a protest against Arctic oil drilling at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, operated by state-owned company Gazprom. The Arctic Sunrise is 'flagged' to the Netherlands, which initiated these proceedings while the 30 were imprisoned.

The panel of five arbitrators today ruled that the 3 nautical mile 'safety zone' declared by Russia around the platform was not valid or enforceable, and that it had no other legal basis to seize the vessel without the consent of the Netherlands.

The boarding and subsequent charges of piracy and hooliganism against the "Arctic 30" led to an international outcry before their eventual release in December 2013 under the terms of an official amnesty (source: greeenpeace)

 

Full case files here

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