Russia Ordered to Release Greenpeace Activists, Seized Ship

Russia must release a Greenpeace ship and crew members once the Netherlands pays surety of 3.6 million euros ($4.9 million), a UN court ruled today.

The Netherlands won most of its arguments at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to free the Dutch-flagged ice-breaker Arctic Sunrise and its crew while an arbitration court can hear the dispute between the two nations.

The activists and the vessel were detained in September amid a protest against arctic drilling near the Russian coast. Of the 30 activists originally detained, 23 have already been released from prison in St. Petersburg on bail, according to Greenpeace. Today’s ruling was supported by 19 of the 21 judges on the panel.

“It is a statement that we need to reflect on, we need to study it further and determine how to proceed with it,” Liesbeth Lijnzaad, the Netherlands’ representative at the tribunal, told reporters after the ruling. “The decision of the court is binding on both parties.”

Russia will study the UN court ruling and determine its response, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement posted on its website.

The country didn’t take part in the proceedings, saying while it was open to an amicable solution, it would boycott this case since this court, which includes a Russian judge, has no jurisdiction over the arrest of the activists that was an internal law enforcement action. No Russian delegation appeared at the Nov. 6 hearing in the suit.

‘Objective Manner’

“We sincerely hope that the tribunal approached the matter in an objective manner,” the Foreign Ministry said.

If the Dutch government has “a financial problem to come up with the money quickly, we as Greenpeace will call on our supporters around the world to quickly raise that money,” Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, told reporters after the ruling.

The Dutch started an arbitration case against Russia at the tribunal in early October under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty governing the international maritime regime. Additionally, the Netherlands on Oct. 21 asked the judges for the interim order at issue in today’s ruling.

The case is: ITLOS, Case No. 22.

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