Seeking justice for the Arctic 30
by Guest Blogger
© Dmitri Sharomov / Greenpeace
The Russian agents' violent response breached the activists' rights tofreedom of expression. It will have a chilling effect on future peaceful protests aimed at protecting the Arctic.What followed was a gross violation of the right toliberty.The next day, armed agents of the Russian Federal Security ServiceboardedtheArctic Sunrisefrom a helicopter and detained the individuals on board. TheArctic Sunrisewas in the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation in the Pechora Sea and outside of the Russian-declared three nautical miles' exclusion zone around the oil platform, Prirazlomnaya, which was the target of the protest. While the Greenpeace ship was being towed to a Russian port by the Russian Authorities, theArctic 30were detained onboard without charge for more than five days. TheArctic 30were threatened with weapons if they did not follow the orders of the Russian agents. They were searched and locked in their cabins or other premises on theArctic Sunrise. All communication devices were taken from them. No movements were possible without the authorisation of the Russian agents. The authorities provided unfounded legal grounds for the detention only after arriving at a Murmansk port. All 30 were charged with piracy. Theirordealbecame even worse. The activists were locked up in some of Russia's most notorious detention facilities for more than two months. This is despite the fact that the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation issued a ruling half-way through their time behind bars that the ground for detention, piracy, was determined to be an improper charge, and a decision was made to reclassify the crime to hooliganism. The activists remained behind bars for another month, until finally being released on bail. On Christmas Day 2013, the Investigative Committee officials informed theArctic 30that their hooliganism charges were dropped as a result of a recently adopted amnesty decree. They were finally free to return home to their families. TheArctic 30are not criminals. They are peaceful protesters, journalists, and environmental human rights defenders. Weanticipate that ultimately the European Court will order Russia to compensate the 30 and declare that their rights to freedom of expression and liberty were violated.