Dutch ask sea tribunal to order Russia to release Greenpeace activists

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 3:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 3:55am

The Netherlands asked an international court yesterday to order Russia to release 30 people detained during a Greenpeace protest against oil drilling in the Arctic at a tribunal Moscow refused to attend.

Dutch government representative Liesbeth Lijnzaad said Russia had "violated the human rights" of the activists who tried to climb onto Russia's first offshore Arctic oil rig in September, detaining them for seven weeks "without grounds".

Russia has said it does not recognise the case, accusing the activists and their ship, the Dutch-registered Arctic Sunrise, of posing a security threat. Prosecutors charged the 30 with piracy but then reduced the charge to hooliganism, which carries a maximum jail term of seven years.

President Vladimir Putin has said that they are not pirates but he has faced growing criticism in the West over what is seen as Russia's heavy-handed treatment of the case.

"The dispute is worsening," Lijnzaad told the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in the German port of Hamburg.

Countries have no right to seize vessels belonging to third countries in their exclusive maritime economic zones, she said.

The Hamburg court was established by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - of which both the Netherlands and Russia are signatories - to settle maritime disputes.