Netherlands Asks UN Tribunal to Force Russia to Release Greenpeace Crew

By:  Warren Mass
11/06/2013
       
Netherlands Asks UN Tribunal to Force Russia to Release Greenpeace Crew

The Netherlands is asking the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order the release of a Greenpeace ship and 30 of its crew members detained by Russia.

Liesbeth Lijnzaad, an aide to the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, testified today before the judges at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, asking the tribunal to order the release of a Greenpeace ship and 30 of its crew members detained by Russia. Lijnzaad requested that the UN body grant an interim order to safeguard the crew’s “rights of liberty and security.”

“They have been held for almost six weeks now,” said Lijnzaad, adding that Russian arguments to keep them are “evidently unfounded.”

The tribunal adjudicates maritime disputes under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both Russia and the Netherlands are party.

The Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, which sails under a Dutch flag, was seized by the Russian Coast Guard in international waters north of the Russian city of Murmansk on September 18. On that day, the crew of the ship circled the Prirazlomnaya oil rig constructed in the Pechora Sea by Russia’s Gazprom energy company, and three of the ship's crew members attempted to board the platform.

In response, the Russian Coast Guard seized the activists and had the ship towed to the port of Murmansk. Though the ship's crew initially was accused of piracy, even Russian President Vladimir Putin said the activists were obviously “not pirates,” and the charges were reduced to “hooliganism.”

“We are very grateful to the Dutch government for bringing this case and to the tribunal for considering it,” Jasper Teulings, the international general counsel for the Dutch-based Greenpeace organization, was quoted as saying by al Jazeera.

“The argument of the Netherlands is that in international waters, ships have the right to freedom of navigation and so this means they may not be boarded, inspected, detained or arrested except with the permission of the flag state. There are exceptions to this, but they are limited,” Teulings added.

Al Jazeera reported that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a statement last week, reiterated his government’s position that Greenpeace posed a threat to the security of Russian workers and the environment by disturbing work at the platform.

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