Russia has announced that it will boycott any international tribunals which seek jurisdiction over the detention of Greenpeace’s diesel-powered ice breaker Arctic Sunrise and the thirty campaigners aboard during the failed boarding of an oil platform.
Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged vessel. Greenpeace has stated that Russia has failed to adequately maintain Arctic Sunrise since those aboard were removed. Greenpeace successfully motivated the Netherlands to begin legal proceedings in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea seeking the release of the ship and those aboard her, all of whom have been charged with piracy and await trial in and around Murmansk. Russia has announced, however, that it will boycott the tribunals and ignore any attempt to assert international law over Russian federal law. Russia views any such attempts as impositions upon its sovereignty.
The Russian foreign ministry did, however, indicate that while it rejects international legal proceedings or arbitration, Russia “remains open to settling the arising situation.” A settlement seems Greenpeace’s best option. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his opinion that the Greenpeace campaigners are law breakers, but not pirates. Further, Putin’s human rights advisor has recommended that the piracy charges be dropped, calling the piracy charge “laughable.”
While Greenpeace’s long-time use of lawless tactics to promote goals that in themselves hinder human freedom are deplorable and worthy of legal action, the piracy charge certainly seems overblown.
Having so many weighing in against the piracy charges both within Russia and without (count CFACT among them) should cheer Greenpeace’s detained campaigners. However, two stark facts remain. Widespread condemnation has so far failed to obtain the release of members of the punk band “Pussy Riot” who were jailed for hooliganism after staging an anti-Putin protest, and once charged, the conviction rate in Russia’s legal system exceeds 99 percent.
Greenpeace campaigner Alexandra Harris wrote in a letter to her parents that she is “trying very, very hard not to lose hope” during her time behind bars in Russia. “Surely my future isn’t rotting in a prison in Murmansk?! Well, I really hope it isn’t… It’s very cold now. It snowed last night. The blizzard blew my very poorly insulated window open and I had to sleep wearing my hat. I’m nervous about spending winter here. I have a radiator in my cell but it’s the Arctic breeze that makes the place very cold. I heard that from December Murmansk is dark for six weeks. God, I hope I’m out by then.”
Greenpeace conducts its Arctic activities during the late summer when conditions are at their most favorable. Despite Greenpeace rhetoric, world temperatures have not risen since the nineties and not much before that. If Russian authorities do not yield soon, the thirty detained Greenpeace campaigners may be forced to learn the hard way just how cold the frozen North truly is.