The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague ruled on Monday 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 and has ordered Russia to compensate the Netherlands over the seizure of the vessel.
According to the ruling, the Netherlands is entitled to compensation with interest for material damage to the Arctic Sunrise and those who were on board the vessel.
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,” Greenpeace said.
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 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.