Tuesday, September 24, 2013


"Russia accuses Greenpeace crew of 'piracy' in Arctic

The BBC's Daniel Sandford: "This is the first time that Greenpeace have found themselves at the criminal end of the piracy law"

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Russian prosecutors have accused 30 Greenpeace activists of piracy and say they will prosecute all of them for trying to board an Arctic oil platform.
Russia's Investigative Committee, modelled on the FBI, will question the activists. Six Britons are among them.
Their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is being towed to the port of Murmansk.
Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said "all those who assaulted the platform, regardless of nationality, will be prosecuted".
The campaigners were detained on Thursday along with their ship after two Greenpeace activists tried to climb onto a Gazprom offshore platform, in a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic." Read the entire story at : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24222392 the BBC also has a video posted there.
AAB ANALYSIS: Russia defines piracy a bit differently from many maritime states and from the accepted international definition. Russia considers any assault on someone else's property for any purpose that converts the use permanently or temporarily from that of the owner when conducted from a vessel to be "piracy" under Russian law. Russian law punishes piracy in which no one is injured or killed (these events would warrant additional charges of assault or murder) with a maximum sentence of 15 years. It is doubtful that a Russian prosecutor would pursue 15 years for a bunch of environmental activists with no sense of good manners or marine safety, but that's the worse the Green Peace platform climbers are facing. 
 There is nothing illegal about Russia having its own definition of Piracy, indeed the Green Peace activists are lucky they are being charged under the Russian statute with Piracy and not under some other national statutes that prescribe life in prison or death for the offense. These people are looking at a serious charge, but the Russians aren't using the "piracy" charge to justify some draconian penalty. We hope these well meaning but completely misguided people don't draw 15 years and we don't think they will. The truth is Russia has been very even handed in their treatment of Green Peace so far. ( A few Years ago France simply sent in frogmen and  sank their boat, with loss of life). We here at the AAB who have actually encountered Green Peace protests simply can not understand a mentality that can not see the danger to the environment of their activities that directly threaten offshore drilling, production, or oil transport or fisheries activities. How does a potential run away well, or sunken fishing boat help the environment? We hope these well meaning but self righteous and misguided people don't draw an over long sentence but it is high time that responsible nation states instructed this NGO in international law, adjacent coastal state's law, and the expected behavior of international Merchant Marine officers. There is a place for the use of ships and boats in environmental protest, but it is not in causing danger of collision, deliberately colliding with vessels lawfully engaged in licensed and permitted activities, or illegally boarding and and thus endangering vessels and platforms exposing the ocean environment to the results of malfunctioning processes. 
 In American and British law it is possible to proceed against a vessel itself in such circumstances. We note the Russians towed the ARCTIC SUN into port. If the Russians have the statute on the books, confiscating the vessel would probably be the best lesson to Green Peace to take a second look at the safety of its operations.  Again we hope the misguided activists don't draw lengthy prison sentences but it is high time that such criminal mischief drew the criminal label it deserves. We hope the Netherlands never considers giving this irresponsible NGO a national registration again. The Netherlands should not feel obligated to defend this organization before Russia. As long as Russia does not impose anything draconian penalty wise, Russia has nothing to be embarrassed about. As much as we usually distrust the Bear, in this case they are simply acting like a prudent and humane adjacent coastal state....so far. The Ball is in the Russian court and Green Peace is in the docket. The state of Russia has been subjected to to some serious expenses that this little ship's seizure and resale could probably pretty much cover. Some type of mild sanction is due the protesters who failed to realize that their right to swing their arm in protest stopped where the other guys nose began. We certainly don't think years of imprisonment are appropriate but we don't see the "piracy" charge as inappropriate given its definition in Russian law. If the sentence guidelines are flexible enough Russia could do every Coast Guard in the World a big favor just by labeling the platform crawlers felons. 
 Coast guard's enforce maritime environmental law as it actually is written, not as some would have it written. They do so with the full endorsement of the state that commissions them. There is a lot of environmental protection written into law globally today, not enough , but enough to stretch thin typical coast guard forces. They don't need to be spending time policing protests that would have better effect on the steps of national legislatures. Environmental activists ships would serve a higher purpose taking photos, gathering samples and other evidence to support legislative initiatives, not creating work for over tasked coast guard forces. 

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