Friday, November 22, 2013


Public Domain Image: Former Greenpeace M/V SIRUS In Amsterdam


Arctic Sunrise Case Is Not Within UN Court's Jurisdiction - Russia

"Russia on Friday said an international maritime tribunal that ruled against it in a case brought by the Netherlands had no jurisdiction over its criminal prosecution of 30 people arrested for a Greenpeace protest over Arctic oil drilling."Read more:

SOURCE: THE VOICE OF RUSSIA (Radio, Print Version)

EDITOR'S NOTE: While we agree with the general premise that Russia has competent legal jurisdiction over this matter and that they have so far handled it with an even hand, we have to disagree with this position by Russia; "The Russian side proceeds on the basis that the situation with the Arctic Sunrise does not fall under the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

 We respectfully disagree with the Russian position, but only in part. The subject matters involved in the case definitely fall within the charter of the United Nation's Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. A categorical denial of this fundamental fact can not be supported in legal argument. Additionally the Court didn't go stick its nose into this matter on its own initiative, it had a plaintiff flag state before it. 

 BUT WE DO HAVE TO AGREE WITH THE RUSSIAN POSITION THAT THE PRESENT RULING IS NOT BINDING; WE BELIEVE BECAUSE IT IS PREMATURE. Apparently two dissenting judges on the tribunal must see some of the flaws in the action that we see because the court was not completely unanimous in its decision. First the ruling by the court for the release of the prisoners was for the most part unnecessary, all but one has been released on bail in accordance with Russian law. We do not know why one individual is being held, but there can be a number of lawful reasons beginning with flight risk, and including actions taken by individuals once the rig had been boarded.

 But here is our major point, the Green Peace activists violated both international and Russian national law. More over, the Russian laws they violated were certainly not violations of human rights but were intended for the economic development of rightfully held national resources, and the protection of the environment during the development of those resources. Russia has not behaved in this matter in any way that violates fundamental human rights. Russia had a right to intervene in a situation that endangered their property and environment. They had a right to make the necessary arrest and to detain the arrested individuals. They also have a well established right under international law, and the common law of admiralty as practiced in most nations and in all English speaking nations to "arrest" and proceed against the vessel. So far they have handled the prisoners in this case in an even handed manner, most were released before the order by the UN tribunal, others released afterwards  were released in accordance with Russian law , not the UN tribunal's order which should have no effect. The ship remains in Russian custody and frankly should not be released without bond in accordance with widely accepted principals of international and admiralty law. Russia has every legal right to proceed against the ship or an adequate bond in court. 

 The Netherlands would have been better served if they had made a discrete diplomatic inquiry concerning the one remaining prisoner in jail. The rest of the crew is out on bail and it looks like right now they may be facing nothing more than about 60 days of post trial incarceration. To certain liberal environmental elements, some perhaps within the Dutch government, this may seem excessive but there has to be some costs imposed for the reckless and negligent violation of private property and national environmental law, especially when conducted by non nationals. What Greenpeace did amounted to a private invasion by a non governmental entity.  

 The first rule of International law is that all nations regardless of size are equal before the law and that national governments exercise soverignity, not NGOs. Both parts of the UN ruling are premature. The purpose of such a tribunal is to help insure that national maritime and admiralty courts adhere to applicable international law. Such international tribunals should not be used as the primary trier of fact or law. While there are exceptions to the rule, these courts should not be resorted to in the case of non government owned vessels in hot water with port or coastal state authorities over violation of national laws before the national court system has had an opportunity to operate its full legal initial trial process.

 So far Russian law appears to be operating in accordance with sound international and admiralty law principals and exercising an even hand. The raving internationalists out there should let the Russian legal system do its job first. Then if irregularities are perceived, appeal to the international tribunal. This recent ruling by the international tribunal, is premature, legally flawed, rightfully ignored by Russia, and does nothing for enhancing the influence of the court. Jumping into the Russian legal system at the point of arrest and preliminary hearing in such a legitimate case damages the prestige of the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. 

Johnas Presbyter, Editor in Chief


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