What do the experts say?

Feature Story - 29 September, 2013
A great number of legal experts have commented on the boarding and seizure of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and on the potential piracy charges against the Arctic 30. Here is a selection:

 

Prof. Dr. Geert-Jan Knoops

Prof. Dr. Geert-Jan Knoops, professor of international criminal law at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, is quoted on 20 September 2013 in Dutch media saying:

"As far as the facts are known to me exactly, the Russian coast guard was not entitled [to board the ship]". Also here.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Kirchner

Visiting Professor for Fundamental and Human Rights, University of Lapland, Prof. Dr. Stefan Kirchner, tweets that "Russia violated international law" and refers to a legal analysis at http://bit.ly/1eAXnxm. From the analysis:

"... it appears that Russia has disregarded several of its international obligations in order to force environmental activists to end peaceful protests."

"Russia's actions with regard to the ARCTIC SUNRISE are incompatible with the international law of the sea as codified in the Law of the Sea Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and possibly other international treaties. It appears that Russia has violated the human rights of the crew members as well as rights of the flag State (Netherlands) and of the crew members' respective home States. In order to comply with international law, Russia has to ensure the speedy release of the vessel and its crew."

Prof. Dr. Doris König

Claussen Simon Chair for International Law at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Prof. Dr. Doris König, commented on 20 September 2013 that it is likely that "the ship's arrest outside of the safety zone constitutes a violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea".

John Dalhuisen

John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme, stated on 24 September 2013: "There’s very little question that unarmed Greenpeace activists are not pirates" ... "Charges of piracy are manifestly unfounded in this case – having no basis in law or reality – and it's profoundly damaging to level such serious charges so carelessly" ... "The Greenpeace activists must be released on a reasonable bail and given full access to defence lawyers, pending any possible trial."

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Professor of International Law at Northwestern University in Chicago, publishes a commentary on 25 September 2013 titled 'Russia's Piracy Charges Against Greenpeace Groundless and Illegal'. In this piece states:

"The Greenpeace activities are most certainly not piracy for several reasons."

"[P]iracy requires 'acts of violence or detention.' Here the Greenpeace activist merely put a poster on the platform. This does not constitute violence." (...) "The Greenpeace activists certainly committed trespass, but not piracy."

"Indeed, it is Russia that fairly clearly violated UNCLOS by seizing the ship for the misconduct of the crew. The arrest of a vessel is strictly forbidden 'even as a matter of investigation,' (Art 97(3)), except for piracy. The piracy allegations here are clearly pretextual, making Russia liable to the Netherlands for seizure 'without adequate grounds'."

Nils Muiznieks

The human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, told Reuters on 26 September 2013, commenting on the detention of the Arctic 30, the denial of bail "clearly raises human rights concerns", saying pre-trial detention should be used only in exceptional circumstances when there is no alternative.

Dr. Douglas Guilfoyle

Dr. Douglas Guilfoyle, Reader in International Law at University College London and a well known expert on piracy published a commentary in The Conversation on 27 September 2013. From the commentary:

"The actions of Greenpeace are not remotely colourable as piracy."

And last but not least:

Dr. Vladimir Putin

President of the Russian Federation and recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Belgrade, Dr. Vladimir Putin, stated on 25 September 2013 that the Greenpeace activists who boarded a Russian oil rig are "obviously not pirates".

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