Eleven Nobel Peace Prize winners write to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Greenpeace case

Press release - 17 October, 2013
Amsterdam, 17 October 2013 - Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu have written a joint letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin offering their support to twenty eight Greenpeace International activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance filmmaker who are being detained in a Russian prison whilst they are investigated for allegations of piracy.

In their letter, the award winners urge President Putin “to do all you can to ensure that the excessive charges of piracy against the 28 Greenpeace activists, freelance photographer and freelance videographer are dropped, and that any charges brought are consistent with international and Russian law.”

Describing the Arctic as a “precious treasure of humanity,” the signatories are all supporting efforts to protect the High North from oil exploration and climate change.

They write, “Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise. An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on Earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate. Equally important is the contribution of Arctic oil drilling to climate change. Climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are paying the price for developed countries’ failure to act.”

The full list of peace laureates who signed the letter are:

- South African Bishop Desmond Tutu

- Northern Irish peace campaigner Betty Williams

- Former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez

- US peace campaigner Jody Williams

- Liberian peace campaigner Leymah Gbowee

- Yemeni peace campaigner Tawakkol Karman

- Guatemalan social reformist Rigoberta Menchu Tum

- Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire

- Iranian lawyer and former judge Shirin Ebadi

- Former President of East Timor Jose Ramos Horta

- Argentine community organiser Adolfo Perez Esquivel

The twenty eight Greenpeace International activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer, were detained following a peaceful protest against the Gazprom Arctic drilling platform Prirazlomnaya on September 18th. They were charged with piracy on October 2nd, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The thirty are being detained in Murmansk, the largest city inside the Arctic circle.

President Putin himself has said of the thirty people in detention, "It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates."

The global campaign to free the Arctic 30 has seen 1.3 million people sign onto a petition, and a day of solidarity demonstrations in 250 locations in 49 countries around the world. Seperately, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists have demanded the release of the two journalist among those in prison. (1)

ENDS


Contacts:

Greenpeace International press desk: +31 20 718 2470 /  / @greenpeacepress

Greenpeace International picture desk: +31 20 718 2471

Greenpeace International video desk: +31 20 718 2472

Notes:

(1) http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-efj-condemn-continued-detention-of-journalists-in-russia  

A copy of the full letter is below:


Dear President Putin,

RE: Drop piracy charges & immediately release the “Arctic 30”

We are writing to ask you to do all you can to ensure that the excessive charges of piracy against the 28 Greenpeace activists, freelance photographer and freelance videographer are dropped, and that any charges brought are consistent with international and Russian law.  We are confident that you share our desire to respect the right to nonviolent protest. 

As you know, Russian authorities have detained 30 members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise crew since September 19 when armed Russian authorities boarded the vessel in the Pechora Sea. The crew—which includes Russians and numerous other nationalities—had been engaged in a peaceful, nonviolent protest.

We were heartened by your statement, on September 25th, that you did not believe the Greenpeace crew members were pirates. As you know, the Greenpeace activists were unarmed and used only peaceful means to demonstrate their opposition to the oil drilling operations threatening the Arctic.

Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise. An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate.

Equally important is the contribution of Arctic oil drilling to climate change. Climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are paying the price for developed countries’ failure to act. Now is the time to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels and move towards a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy.

We urge all states to do their utmost to protect this precious treasure of humanity, while moving beyond a dependency on oil as an energy source. As one of the countries most directly concerned, we call on you to personally lead that effort.

We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the “Arctic 30” in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) — South Africa

Oscar Arias S��nchez, Nobel Peace Laureate (1987)  - Costa Rica

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala

José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) — East Timor

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia