Greenpeace activists jailed indefinitely

Inhumane treatment for role in peaceful protest against illegal oil dump

Feature story - 12 June, 2002
Two Greenpeace activists have been held in isolation in police cells for eight days in Sweden. They were arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest against an oil dumping vessel and have been detained on suspicion of aggravated trespass.

Greenpeace activists arrested during attempt to block the oil dumper MS Fagervik in Norrkoping, Sweden.

They have been told they will be kept in jail until trial. No date has been yet been set.

The two women are Liz Rickman, a fifty year old doctor with dual Australian and British nationality and Kristina Petersen, a 27 year old student from Germany.

The protest took place in the Baltic Sea, where activists were drawing attention to a vessel which had been illegally dumping oil into the Baltic Sea.

Yet while the owners and operators of the vessel walked free from court, both Liz and Kristina have spent the last week in police cells.

"This is a violation not just of their civil rights, but also their human rights," said Greenpeace International Executive Director, Gerd Leipold. "It is shocking that such a normally liberal country as Sweden, with a good track record on environmental issues should adopt such a brutal approach to peaceful protestors who were highlighting environmental crimes," Leipold added.

The women are being held in wholly inadequate conditions in police holding cells that are designed for short term or overnight detention, not longer periods. They have been refused access to embassy officials, legal representation of their choosing or Greenpeace representatives.

During initial proceedings the women were brought before the magistrate separately behind closed doors. Greenpeace believes there have been a number of breaches of the European Court of Human rights Act through the treatment of these two women, including degrading treatment, the denial of their right to legal counsel of their choosing, and the possibility of being prosecuted because of their beliefs.

Previous court cases involving other Greenpeace activists in Sweden facing aggravated trespass charges have resulted in no more than a fine being imposed. None has ever been imprisoned. The prosecutor claims both women are a flight risk, though no Greenpeace activist world-wide has ever failed to appear in court to face charges. An appeal against the ruling will be lodged with the Supreme court in the morning.