Amsterdam, 4 October 2013 – The Dutch government today announced that it would initiate arbitration proceedings against Russia under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea to secure the release of 28 Greenpeace International activists, plus a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer, currently being detained in Russia on piracy charges.
In response, Greenpeace International’s General Counsel Jasper Teulings said:
“Greenpeace International applauds the Dutch government decision as flag state of the Arctic Sunrise in taking the necessary legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and the Arctic 30, who are being unjustly held. The Netherlands is taking a strong stance in support of the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest. Russian officials will now be called to explain their actions before an international court of law, where they will be unable to justify these absurd piracy allegations. We hope the court will agree with President Putin himself, who has said that the Greenpeace campaigners are certainly not pirates.
“International legal experts have uniformly described the piracy charges against the Greenpeace International activists and the freelance photographer and videographer as baseless. While we hope that the Russian prosecutor and courts come to the same conclusion well before these international proceedings are concluded, and the defendants are released, the Dutch legal action sends a strong political signal and gives us hope that justice will prevail.
“Our ship was illegally detained in international waters following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling and we hope that other states, especially the countries whose nationals are among the detained, will support the Netherlands in this commendable initiative.”
Last week President Putin scoffed at the notion that the Greenpeace protesters were pirates. He said: “It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates.”
1. Article 287 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) provides States Parties with a ‘menu’ of different options to settle disputes, including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice, an arbitral tribunal or a so-called ‘special arbitral tribunal’.
2. The Russian Federation ratified the Convention on 12 March 1997 and issued a Declaration opting for settlement of disputes through special arbitration. It also made use of the possibility to exclude certain disputes from compulsory settlement. Article 297, paragraphs 2 and 3 allow a reservation with respect to disputes on law enforcement activities regarding fisheries and marine scientific research only.
3. A five-member arbitral tribunal will now be constituted in accordance with Annex VIII, Article 3 to LOSC. The Netherlands may ask for a Provisional Measure in accordance with Article 290, which could include the immediate release of the vessel and crew.
4. The decision on this request will be taken as soon as possible either by the arbitral tribunal, if agreement on its composition can be reached within two weeks, or by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Article 290(5) LOSC). Typically this process would take less than two months.