An international tribunal has awarded the Netherlands €5.395.561,61 plus interest in damages over the high-profile Greenpeace ‘Arctic 30’ dispute with Russia, concluding proceedings which resoundingly reaffirm the right to peaceful protest at sea.
The award follows a lengthy course of arbitration dating back to the unlawful boarding, seizing and detention of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, following a peaceful protest in international waters in September 2013.
The 30 men and women on board (28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists), known as the ‘Arctic 30’, spent two months in prison – first in the Arctic city of Murmansk and later in St Petersburg – before being released on bail and finally freed altogether by an amnesty adopted by the Russian Duma.
The Arctic Sunrise itself was returned to Greenpeace after nine months at port in Murmansk, having suffered considerable damage during the arrest and subsequent detention inside the Arctic Circle. Inflatable boats and other equipment had also sustained serious damage.
Jasper Teulings, Greenpeace International General Counsel, said:
“The road to justice can be long but today’s award emphatically upholds international law and the right to peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic – and at sea worldwide.”
Ben Ayliffe, Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace International, added:
“The Arctic 30’s peaceful protest showed the world the extreme lengths some governments and corporations would go to in order to try and keep us hooked on oil. The brave action they took at that remote drilling platform inspired millions of people to come together to stand against the oil industry. From the icy Arctic to the Amazon Mouth and the tar sands pipelines of North America, people have followed the example of the Arctic 30 and are helping create a greener, safer and more prosperous world that no longer relies on fossil fuels or oil companies.”
Russia was held liable in August 2015 for the boarding, seizing and detention of the Arctic Sunrise and for subsequent measures taken against the vessel and the individuals on board. Today’s award puts a figure on the damages owed by Russia.
Throughout the case, the Russian government refused to participate at any stage of the legal proceedings or to pay its share of the legal costs set by the Tribunal. It is therefore not yet clear whether Russia will comply with today’s binding ruling to pay damages. Any of those funds that are forwarded by the Dutch government to Greenpeace International will go towards covering costs incurred, including ship repairs – and of course compensation for immaterial damages suffered by the members of the Arctic 30 will be passed to the 30 individuals themselves.
Last week, after an extensive refit and refurbishment, the Arctic Sunrise set sail to campaign against exploratory oil drilling in the Barents Sea by Norwegian company Statoil, which is ploughing further north than ever before. Greenpeace and allies are challenging these plans in court and the Arctic Sunrise will play a leading role exposing the recklessness of drilling above the Arctic Circle this summer.
Separately from the arbitration brought by the Netherlands, the Arctic 30 have applied to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the actions of the Russian authorities breached their rights to liberty and freedom of expression. That case is still in its early stages.