They were joined by concerned Wellingtonians in calling for the release of 30 Greenpeace activists, including two New Zealanders, who have been held onboard the Arctic Sunrise ship since Thursday.
The Arctic Sunrise is being towed by Russian authorities to the port of Murmansk, where they are expected to arrive at some point tomorrow (Tuesday).
Yesterday, Greenpeace International strongly rejected an allegation of piracy leveled at its ship Arctic Sunrise in the Russian Arctic, describing it as a desperate attempt to justify the illegal boarding of its ship in international waters.
The Greenpeace activists remain under armed guard and without legal representation after the ship was boarded on Thursday. Greenpeace is demanding that it is allowed to contact the activists immediately.
Around 300,000 people have written to Russian embassies and consulates around the world since Thursday evening demanding the release of the activists. Greenpeace offices in over 30 countries have organised solidarity protests.
Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace’s campaign director, said: “We’re here today with a very simple message for the Russian authorities: Free the Arctic 30.
“We hope that delivering this message carved in ice will, along with similar activities at dozens of Russian embassies around the globe, make them take notice. The Russian coast guard boarded our ship with no legal justification. Now they should release her, and all the activists on board.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on Friday that it is formally considering charges of piracy (1), despite the fact that piracy by definition can only apply to violent acts against ships committed for private ends - not peaceful protests carried out to protect the environment.
Legal experts have joined Greenpeace International lawyers to declare the boarding of the ship in international waters as illegal. Professor Geert-Jan Knoops, an international criminal law expert based in the Netherlands, said on Friday:
"As far as the facts are known to me exactly, the Russian coast guard was not entitled [to board the ship]”. (2)
The ship’s co-ordinates at the time of arrest were 69 19.86’N 057 16.56’E, showing that the vessel was clearly outside Russia’s territorial waters.
UNCLOS Article 101
Definition of piracy
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).