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22 Nov, 2013 19:43

Intl tribunal urges Russia to release Arctic activists on $5mn bond

Intl tribunal urges Russia to release Arctic activists on $5mn bond

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has requested a provisional release of Greenpeace’s Dutch registered ship the Artic Sunrise and its crew for a bond of €3.6 million ($5 million). Moscow says the issue is beyond the tribunal’s competency.

The bond is to be paid by the Netherlands. The tribunal in its Friday ruling also ordered Russia to allow the Arctic Sunrise and the 30 activists to leave the country.

“The Russian Federation shall immediately release the vessel Arctic Sunrise and all persons who have been detained upon the posting of a bond or other financial security by the Netherlands,” the document read.

Russia, who refused to attend hearings in Hamburg, responded the case doesn’t fall within the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

The Russian side hasn’t participated in the proceedings, because it doesn’t consider this situation as an argument between the Netherlands and Russia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement adding that Russia had acted “within its own economic zone.”

Moscow also said that there was a clause in the 1982 convention which allows Russia to ignore the findings of the tribunal if arguments concerns Russia’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction. The ministry maintained that the activists were breaking Russian laws and put the safety of the rig in jeopardy.

“Russia’s response to the Arctic Sunrise vessel and its crew were provoked by unlawful actions committed by the people onboard the ship, who grossly violated Russian and international norms, in particular, marine safety, the safety and regime of Prirazlomnaya oil rig,” the ministry said.

However, the Foreign Ministry did say it would “study the International Tribunal’s decision”.

Thirty people aboard the Arctic Sunrise including two journalists were detained after a protest near a Gazprom owned oil rig on September 18 in the Pechora Sea. 29 of them have already been granted on bail, but they will not be allowed to leave Russia. Greenpeace says it will cater for the activists while the proceedings in Russia continue.

The Arctic Thirty as they have become known were initially charged with piracy, which can carry a 15-year maximum sentence, but in October, Russia reduced the charges to hooliganism, which carries a maximum jail term of seven years.

The Netherlands launched the legal action at the Tribunal in October. The Hamburg tribunal is an independent international judicial body which adjudicates in disputes over the interpretation and application of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.