Amsterdam, 24 September 2013 - Russian authorities today released a new statement (1) regarding Greenpeace International activists on board the ship Arctic Sunrise. The Greenpeace International ship is currently being held outside the port city of Murmansk.
The statement announces that the Northwestern Federal District Investigations Directorate has ‘opened a criminal case’ into possible piracy offences but - despite some media reports - does not confirm that the crew will be charged or prosecuted with piracy.
Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo responded to the Russian statement:
“Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world have failed to respond to dire scientific warnings about the consequences of climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere.
“Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit in international law. We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists.”
In a statement posted online in response to the boarding of the Arctic Sunrise, international legal expert Assoc. Prof. Stefan Kirchner said:
“Labelling non-piracy acts as piracy can harm international anti-piracy efforts... All States should refrain from using the term with regard to acts which obviously do not amount to piracy.” (2)
Under the Russian Criminal Code, piracy does not apply to either oil platforms like Prirazlomnaya or to peaceful protest. (3)
According to Article 106 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, "where the seizure of a ship or aircraft on suspicion of piracy has been effected without adequate grounds, the State making the seizure shall be liable to the State the nationality of which is possessed by the ship or aircraft for any loss or damage caused by the seizure." (4)
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(3) http://www.russian-criminal-code.com/PartII/SectionIX/Chapter24.html. See Article 227.