Russia Drops Criminal Charges Against Greenpeace Activists

Ahead of Sochi Olympics

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Updated 1:20 p.m. E.T. 

Russian investigators officially dropped criminal charges Wednesday against 30 Greenpeace activists arrested in September during protests against oil drilling in the Arctic. The move comes as Moscow has freed several other high-profile prisoners just weeks before the beginning of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Russia’s Federal Migration Service will meet with the activists later today, according to a Greenpeace statement. Any non-Russian members of the group must secure exit visas in their passports before leaving the country, Reuters reports.

The 30 activists were detained in September aboard their icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, while protesting oil drilling in the Arctic.

“This is the day we’ve been waiting for since our ship was boarded by armed commandos almost three months ago,” said Peter Willcox, who captained the Arctic Sunrise. “I’m pleased and relieved the charges have been dropped, but we should not have been charged at all.”

Russian authorities initially charged the protestors with piracy, but later changed the charges to “hooliganism.”

President Vladimir Putin recently approved the release of two members of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot as well as the pardon of former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Some consider Russia’s release of prisoners an effort by Putin to burnish Russia’s image before it hosts the Sochi Winter Olympics.



That Russian judicial system...So arbitrary.

Russia raided a foreign ship in international waters, towed it to their own port, confiscated the vessel and threw the crew in jail under trumped-up charges, without a trial.

Normally, that is called "piracy" under international law, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands rightfully filed a case in international court, which rather promptly ordered :

"The Russian Federation shall immediately release the vessel Arctic Sunrise 

and all persons who have been detained"

ITLOS case 22.

So what does Russia do ?

They "pardon" the crew.

That's it ?

How about returning the 'bail' that was paid ?

How about paying compensation for damage and unlawful detention, as is required under international law (UNCLOS) if the original charges are dismissed ?

What a mess...



The judicial foundation of the Dutch claim filed in the International Tribunal to the Law of the Sea was extremely weak. For instance, the main argument was the affirmation that Russia violated the freedom of seas. Obviously the freedom of seas cannot be a defining argument for freeing from responsibility a ship that violates the rules. 

The other example of evidently flawed position of the Netherlands is the affirmation that Russia has no right to arrest the carrier vessel (a mother ship) launching the boats attacking the platform because the vessel was positioned beyond the security zone at the distance exceeding 500 meters from the drilling platform. The argument sounds strange. One gets the impression the Dutch were not attentive enough while reading the text of United Nations 1982 Maritime Convention. It puts it straight that the state the shore line belongs to has a right of hot pursuit if there is a solid ground to believe a foreign ship breached its national laws and regulations (part 1 article 111 of the 1982 Convention). It says the hot pursuit of a foreign ship may be undertaken when the competent authorities of the coastal State have good reason to believe that the ship has violated the national laws and regulations. Such pursuit must be commenced when the foreign ship or one of its boats is within the internal waters, the archipelagic waters, the territorial sea or the contiguous zone of the pursuing State, and may only be continued outside the territorial sea or the contiguous zone if the pursuit has not been interrupted. It is not necessary that, at the time when the foreign ship within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone receives the order to stop, the ship giving the order should likewise be within the territorial sea or the contiguous zone. If the foreign ship is within a contiguous zone, as defined in article 33, the pursuit may only be undertaken if there has been a violation of the rights for the protection of which the zone was established. It applies to zone or on the continental shelf, including safety zones around continental shelf installations, of the laws and regulations of the coastal State applicable in accordance with this Convention to the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf, including such safety zone. The right of hot pursuit shall apply mutatis mutandis to violations in the exclusive economic zones. (part 2 article 111). The Dutch pretended to be not aware of these norms.



The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was created in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which is also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, it cannot spread its jurisdiction on any state. It has a right to consider the cases of the states which are party to the convention and the ones who have not made any reservations concerning the Tribunal.