Amsterdam, 23 October 2013 – The Russian Foreign Ministry today announced that it will not accept an international arbitration process at which the Netherlands is seeking the release of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and its crew (1). It also said it plans not to attend the hearing at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The Ministry did, however, say today that “at the same time Russia remains open to settling the situation”.
Greenpeace International Legal Counsel, Daniel Simons said:
“It’s positive to see that Russia remains open to settling this case. That said, Russia cannot pick and choose which parts of the Convention on the Law of the Sea it will apply. When the Russian Federation ratified UNCLOS, Russia made use of the possibility to exclude certain types of disputes from being heard by international courts and tribunals. The Russian reservation is overboard and does not apply in this instance. It seems the Russian authorities don't welcome the prospect of the lawfulness of their actions being assessed by an independent tribunal.”
Simons added: “If the Russian Federation believes the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction, the normal and proper thing to do would be to raise this at the hearing.”
The Russian Federation ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on 12 March 1997. Under Article 298(1)(b), certain types of disputes can be excluded from compulsory settlement. Article 297, paragraphs 2 and 3 allow an opt-out with respect to disputes on law enforcement activities regarding fisheries and marine scientific research only (2). Russia made an impermissible wider opt-out excluding all law enforcement-related disputes from adjudication, but this will not be effective.
ITLOS is an independent judicial body located in Hamburg, Germany, established to resolve disputes about the interpretation and application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Dutch authorities initiated an arbitration case against Russia on October 4, and on October 21 called for ITLOS to indicate ‘provisional measures’ pending the outcome of that arbitration.
If ITLOS rules in favour of the Netherlands, the 28 Greenpeace International activists, freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan could go home while they await confirmation of a Russian court date.
Renowned law of the sea expert, Douglas Guilfoyle, on the Russian reservation to the UNCLOS backs up this view: http://www.ejiltalk.org/greenpeace-pirates-and-the-mv-arctic-sunrise/
Greenpeace International press desk: +31 20 718 24 70 / /@greenpeacepress
Greenpeace International picture desk: +31 207 18 24 71
Greenpeace International video desk: +31 207 18 24 72