Thirty snow-people line gates of Russian embassy in Ottawa as call for Canadian intervention to bring home the ‘Arctic 30’ grows

Feature story - December 17, 2013
Greenpeace volunteers placed 30 snow-people in front of the Russian embassy in Ottawa today along with signs reading “Free the Arctic 30 – Bring them home for the holidays” calling for the disproportionate charges against the “Arctic 30” to be dropped and for the activists and journalists to be allowed to return home for the holidays.

© David Kawai

Adding to the call, an open letter to Minister Baird signed by 53 prominent Canadian individuals and civil society organizations appeared as an ad in today’s Ottawa Citizen. Paul Dewar, Elizabeth May, John Greyson, Tarek Loubani, Stephen Lewis, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Unifor are amongst the signatories.

“The 30 snow-people represent the 28 activists and two freelance journalists illegally detained in Russia for protesting destructive Arctic oil drilling in international waters, still facing trumped up charges and unable to return home,” said Greenpeace Canada Arctic campaign coordinator Christy Ferguson. “An international tribunal has ruled and a global community has spoken: the Arctic 30 must be freed.”

Two Canadians, Paul Ruzycki and Alexandre Paul, are among those currently released on bail in Russia, but barred from leaving the country and still facing up to seven years in prison if convicted of hooliganism.

A crucial vote in the Duma (Russian parliament) tomorrow could see the end of legal proceedings against the Arctic 30. At a first hearing the Duma today adopted the text of an amnesty bill drawn up by the office of President Putin which does not include the Arctic 30. But amendments are being proposed and a final vote is expected tomorrow. Crucially, powerful figures in the Duma today indicated their support for a broader amnesty that would include the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists.

A ruling in November by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) – made up of twenty-one eminent judges – Issued a binding ruling for Russia to allow the Arctic 30 to leave the country immediately and to release the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, as soon as a bond of 3.6 million euros in the form of a bank guarantee was paid. That bond was posted by the Government of the Netherlands – where the Arctic Sunrise is registered – on 29th November. Russia is now in defiance of the ITLOS ruling.

The Canadian government has supplied consular services to the two Canadians, but has been publicly silent on the issue. “John Baird’s lack of public support for the safe return home of Paul and Alexandre is nothing short of an injustice,” added Ferguson. “As our Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is his duty to ensure that the Human Rights of Canadians wrongfully treated in a foreign country are upheld. We are urging Minister Baird to call publicly for the baseless charges against Paul and Alexandre to be dropped so they can return home immediately.”

World leaders, Nobel laureates, Human Rights leaders and more than 50 Canadian NGOs and public personalities are among the 2.5 million people calling for an end to the disproportionate and illegal detention of the Arctic 30.