Russia ordered to pay €5.4M in 2013 Greenpeace arrest case

An international arbitration tribunal has ruled that Russia must pay a 5.39 million euros compensation to the Netherlands for the damage to the Dutch-flagged, Greenpeace-operated Arctic Sunrise vessel, and the arrest of Greenpeace protesters in 2013.

The arbitration, launched by the Netherlands, concerns the measures taken by Russia against the Dutch-flagged ship Arctic Sunrise and the thirty Greenpeace activists who used the vessel to stage a protest on the Gazprom-run Prirazlomnaya offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea in September 2013.

In September 2013, the Greenpeace vessel approached the Gazprom-operated Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, offshore northern coast of Russia.

The activists were there to protest against the Arctic drilling. In the morning of September 19, the Arctic Sunrise launched five inflatable boats, which approached the platform, allowing two campaigners to scale its side. Their climb was hampered by the platform’s water cannons and the efforts of two inflatables launched from a Russian Coast Guard vessel―the Ladoga.

The protest ended by Russian forces seizing the Arctic Sunrise vessel and arresting 30 people on board, which later became famous as the Arctic 30.

After that, the Arctic 30 were detained, charged with the criminal offense of piracy, subsequently requalified as hooliganism, and remanded in custody. They were released on bail by November 29, 2013, and were granted amnesty by Decree of the Russian State Duma in respect of the crime of hooliganism on December 18, 2013.

On June 6, 2014, the arrest of the Arctic Sunrise was lifted. The ship departed from Murmansk on August 1, 2014 and reached Amsterdam the following week.

The Netherlands launched the legal action in 2013 claiming Russia had violated its obligations toward the Netherlands under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and customary international law. The Netherlands’ also sought compensation for the damage to the vessel and compensation for detention of the protesters.

The Tribunal in 2015 found that the Netherlands was entitled to compensation, amongst others, for damage to the Arctic Sunrise, including physical damage to the vessel, resulting from the measures taken by the Russian Federation, and costs incurred to prepare the vessel for its return voyage from Murmansk to Amsterdam; as well as costs incurred due to loss of use of the Arctic Sunrise during the relevant period.

After years of proceedings, the Tribunal on Tuesday found that the Russian Federation shall pay to the Netherlands  around 5,39 million euros in compensation for the damage to the ship and the actions against the protesters, plus other reimbursements.

Worth noting, Russia refused to take part in the arbitration, so it is not clear if it will indeed comply with the ruling and pay the compensation.

According to Greenpeace, any of those funds that are forwarded by the Dutch government to Greenpeace International will go towards covering costs incurred, including ship repairs – and compensation for immaterial damages suffered by the members of the Arctic 30 will be passed to the 30 individuals themselves.

The environmental group also said on Wednesday that the Arctic Sunrise last week set sail to campaign against exploratory oil drilling in the Barents Sea by Norwegian company Statoil.


Russian side of the story


While Russia refused to partake in the arbitration, the country’s foreign ministry in 2015 issued a document supporting its actions against the Arctic Sunrise.

One excerpt reads: “The Arctic Sunrise delivered Greenpeace activists to Prirazlomnaya. After their action that was coordinated from the ship they returned to the Arctic Sunrise which remained in the vicinity of the platform refusing to follow the instructions of the Russian Border Guard and obstructing its activities.

The vessel and its crew were clearly acting as a unit against the platform and Russian law-enforcement officials. In this situation exclusive criminal jurisdiction and in particular enforcement jurisdiction of the Russian Federation over Prirazlomnaya apparently extended to the vessel and those on board and the flag State had no exclusive jurisdiction over the vessel. Thus there was no need for the Russian authorities to seek consent of the flag State for the boarding of Arctic Sunrise and detention of the ship and its crew.”

Also in the document, it has been written the Russian Federation respects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly exercised in accordance with international law, including when they are exercised at sea. Russian authorities claimed they were also open to dialogue with those having concerns regarding economic activities in the Arctic, the text in the document reads.

“However, when the enjoyment of the aforementioned rights is combined with aggressive behavior of their beneficiaries (“protesters”), obstruction of the law-enforcement activities and infringement of the rights of others, it cannot, in accordance with international law, be qualified either as peaceful or as lawful.

Definitely, there are alternative means to express views on the necessity to preserve the Arctic environment and to “protest at sea” – such that would not create prejudice to private and public rights and interests, infringe the law and put others at risk,” it has been written in the document by the Russian foreign ministry.


Offshore Energy Today Staff

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