Amsterdam, 21 November 2013 – The Murmansk Regional Court has today rejected an appeal against the arrest of the ship Arctic Sunrise by Russian authorities.
"This is an extremely disappointing ruling. We believe this verdict is in violation of both the Russian Criminal Procedure Code and international law. Cassation procedures are now available under Russian law," said Gerrit-Jan Bolderman, Director of Stichting Phoenix, the ship’s owner.
Besides the possibility of a further appeal at a cassation court by Stichting Phoenix, the lawyer representing Peter Willcox, the captain of the Arctic Sunrise who was granted bail by a St Petersburg court on Wednesday, will in the coming days file a petition seeking the release of the ship.
On October 7, the Leninsky District Court of Murmansk issued an order imposing the arrest of the ship Arctic Sunrise, ruling that it was lawfully seized by the Federal Security Service on the basis of Article 19 of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas, which allows seizure of a pirate vessel outside territorial waters.
The seizure took place at gunpoint in international waters by Russian security forces on September 19 after a peaceful Greenpeace International protest at a Gazprom Arctic oil platform. The ship was then towed to the Murmansk port by the Russian coast guard and the 28 Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists on board were charged with piracy and hooliganism.
Stichting Phoenix, the owner of the Arctic Sunrise, lodged the appeal against the arrest order handed down by the Murmansk court. Greenpeace International charters the vessel from Stichting Phoenix based on annual agreements.
Stichting Phoenix argued that as the owner of the ship is not a defendant in the criminal proceedings initiated against the 28 Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists, its property should not be seized as security in those criminal proceedings.
It also argued that the arrest of the ship violates the International Convention Relating to the Arrest of Sea-Going Ships and also violates Article 58(1) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which guarantees foreign-flagged vessels freedom of navigation in a country's Exclusive Economic Zone.
In a separate case relating to the seizure of the ship and the Arctic 30, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) will announce its ruling on Friday in a case brought by the Netherlands seeking the immediate release and repatriation of the detainees, and the end of all legal proceedings against them. Twenty-one judges will give their verdict at 15:00 in Hamburg.
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