Russia versus Greenpeace 210

Russia is casting around for legal measures it can use against Greenpeace.  To any reasonable person the accusation of piracy is ludicrous.  Russia has come to it because there is no other charge over which it can claim jurisdiction.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Russia has ratified and is in force, the criminal jurisdiction of a coastal state operates only within its territorial sea of up to twelve miles.  Beyond that it may have an exclusive economic zone of up to two hundred miles, and a continental shelf may extend even beyond that; but within those zones the rights of coastal states are limited to jurisdiction over economic activity and mineral exploitation.

The Russians appear very aware of the legal position.  When the Greenpeace activists were first arrested, I heard on BBC World Service radio here in Accra a Russian government spokesman say the vessel appeared to be towing a seismic buoy.  Greenpeace explained it was a survival pod.  But the point is, if it had been a seismic buoy, that would have been an economic activity which the Russian government is indeed entitled to regulate, so it was s thought out pretext (though I have no doubt a dishonest one).

Obviously the argument that they were engaged in unlawful economic activity may have justified the original arrest but quickly falls.  What else is left?  The seas above the exclusive economic zone are part of the High Seas – a fact often misunderstood.  The only criminal activity on the High Seas over which a state other than the flag state of the vessel can claim jurisdiction is piracy.  So if the Russians want to bring charges, it is piracy or nothing.

Of course any sensible government would opt for nothing, and accept that demonstrations happen.  The Russian government is not sensible in that sense, and would far rather throw away the international kudos gained over Syria, than admit for one second that Putin is not in complete macho control of absolutely everything.

The stupid thing about all this is that Russia has every legal right to be drilling for oil in the Arctic, a great deal of which is rightly within Russia’s exclusive economic zone.  The Russians have the right to drill, and Greenpeace have the right to protest about it.

What this is not, is piracy.  Greenpeace were not intending to steal or damage any rig, vessel or cargo, or to commit violence.  They were just protesting.  The definition of piracy in UNCLOS is quite clear:

Article 101

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

 Plainly this is not piracy.


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210 thoughts on “Russia versus Greenpeace

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  • Mary

    Prof Michel Chossudovsky was speaking about the future militarisation of the Arctic on RT yesterday. He is well informed.

    Heat over Arctic: ‘Oil & gas may fuel militarization of the region’

    25 Sep 2013

    As world powers team up to secure the ecology in the Arctic, the rivalry over its rich oil and gas resources is heating up. Michel Chossudovsky from the Center for Research on Globalisation explains that the battle for the North Pole is high on the global military agenda. READ MORE:

  • Jemand

    Some discussion of applicability of law in international waters –

    An interesting part –

    (5) Universal jurisdiction. According to Henry Kissinger, “the doctrine of universal jurisdiction asserts that some crimes are so heinous that their perpetrators should not escape justice by invoking doctrines of sovereign immunity or the sacrosanct nature of national frontiers.”

    Those words might come back to haunt ol’ Henry if he lasts long enough.

  • Passerby

    Recollecting the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, and subsequent non molestation of the French interests to date, at least Russians are trying to float a dog and pony show of legality, albeit on a flimsy basis.

    Curious as to why Green Peace has never targeted the gulf of mexico spill? Although Green Peace site tries to tie up the spill to the Russians activity in the Arctic.

    Frankly I am suspicious of Green Peace motives, and I am not quiet convinced they are operating on the level. Therefore it cannot be adduced they are not a clandestine “objector” front shop of the relevant SIS, tasked with spiking the economic activities of the rival economies.

  • Jemand

    Ok, so now Greenpeace is a CIA funded “front” set up and operated to obstruct non-US resource companies that compete with US companies for resource exploitation.


  • Daniel Rich

    The owner of the TV station that [used to] broadcast/s ‘War on Whales’ has, through banks in the UK, stock in the the very company they chase on TV. Need $$ to protect ya precious hamlet? Dial FUKUSU2 for assistance.

  • nevermind, get your lead brolly here, and use it...

    Greenpeace is hierarchically ordered and does not offer their members any choice for campaigning, they decide on campaigns, and the members pay their dues and tick which ueber choice they agree with.

    I agree with Passerby that Greenpeace is secretive and dodgy.

    Just as the Russian Government is dodgy for even trying to drill in this pristine Arctic area. No time for both of them.

  • glenn

    Seems like a charge of ‘piracy’ at sea is just as convenient as one of ‘terrorism’ on land. A very convenient catch-all of being inconvenient to a government or its interests, which requires next to nothing by way of proof, but for which the punishment can be whatever the security-state in question fancies.

  • Uriah Heep

    We’re going to see a lot of mediagenic propaganda drama about how Russia/China/Iran breaches human rights. Only 22 days until October 17.

    Then the world will hear what US government criminals have got to say for themselves. The US regime will have to justify their existence not to journalistic asskissers or town halls policed by gestapo goons, but to independent experts who know their rights. No focus-grouped bullshit campaign issues but the minimal standards of the civilized world. As enforced by the ICJ under Article 38 of its charter, the committee’s conclusions and recommendations override the shit-flinging shaved apes of the supreme court. The US government will go to great lengths to drown that out.

  • peter25

    What would we do if Greenpeace tried to board one of our gas or oil rigs in the North Sea or wherever. Have I have missed point somewhere :o)

  • Juteman

    Obviously, the nice British government would make them tea and cucumber sandwiches, before locking them up for 14 years under anti-terrorism legislation.

  • Michael Stephenson

    It seems silly to me to always trot out the Russia macho explanation for everything.

    If Greenpeace had tried this in the Gulf of Mexico, they’d have been similarly arrested and likely similarly there would be attempts to charge them with something.

    Would machismo be part of the discussion under those circumstances?

  • Daniel Rich

    I’m not a friend of Vlad nor a defender of Russian policies. I find it odd that Russia is being attacked from all sides lately, ever since it ripped the winds out of the sails of Unca Sam’s war flotilla. My sense for justice wants everyone to be treated equally under a law ensuring equal rights to anyone.

    You did not choose your family

    You did not choose your background

    You did not choose the color of your skin

    You did not choose the country you were born in

    You did not choose to be circumcised

    You did not choose to love a person

    You did not choose your gender

    You did not choose the school you attended

    I stand up for, and defend, a person’s right to be him/herself.

    Needless to say, children will be kept out of harms way.

  • sea fool was foolish finking was frank fool

    Its nice to mull over what are the laws of the sea and how they came about. At first countries tried to colonialize or sea grab the oceans, but soon recognized that this was problematic and so came up with the concept that the high sea was that part of the sea further than a country could fire its canons, hence the territorial waters were those within range and the high sea out of range, as in if we can’t blast them out of the waters from the mainland they are in international waters.

    The law of the sea and the law of space and the law of cyber space are related concepts. If we can use military might to control it then its ours.

    Another though comes to mind: the piracy party and its attempts to free up cyber space.

  • Robin

    @Peter25 – no need to wonder, greenpeace activists occupied the Brent Spar platform in the North Sea back in 1995, along with accompanying demos of shell petrol stations. They won, Shell lost, nobody was arrested for piracy.

  • technicolour

    that’s OK: some activists in Belgium have just been found guilty of “organised crime” for pulling up some (illegal) potatoes:

    Today the Court of Dendermonde, Belgium, convicted 11 activists of organised crime in relation to their participation in a day of action against a GM potato field which took place in Wetteren on May 29th, 2011.
    The activists were convicted of criminal gang forming, criminal damage and resisting arrest, and were given suspended prison sentences of between 3 and 6 ,months, plus fines, damages and court costs totalling more than 25 thousand euros.
    There was some relief among the activists on hearing the verdict, but also concern that this verdict creates an extremely dangerous precedent for everyone who values the right of citizens to freedom of speech. This is the first time that environmental activists have been convicted of organised crime charges in Belgium. The activists plan to appeal against todays’ verdict.
    ”This conviction for organised crime is completely out of proportion with the ‘crime’ of uprooting a few potatoes from a controversial GM crop which was grown for mainly promotional reasons.” said Barbara Van Dyck, one of the defendants. ‘ The aim of the action was to trigger public debate about the introduction of GMOs into agriculture. The field trial itself was later found by a separate court to be unlawful because they did not have a valid permit for the crop.’

  • Brendan

    I note Caroline Lucas just got arrested, and is being charged, for being at an anti-fracking demo. Our own country isn’t quite so liberal either. Indeed Lucas is an MP, which makes it worse. Personally I was never awfy convinced about Lucas as an MP, or a leader of a party, but I admire her spirit. And she shouldn’t be facing studpid charges.

    Worth pointing out. I too am a little sceptical about Greenpeace, sorry. I was just erading Charlie Wilson’s war, and was left with the distinct impression that the security services basically can do anything they like. Infiltrate any group they please, for whatever reason they imagine. And they do so, and they get away with it. Infiltrate Greenpeace to draw attention to the many problems in Russia? Perfectly plausible scenario, I think.

    Of course, one mustn’t go the opposite extreme and think that the CIA\Mossad\Whoever is some sort of hegemon force with eyes and ears everywhere, I don’t suppose it’s like that either, even taking into account the recent NSA revelations. Healthy scepticism all round is the cure to such Kafka-esque mind-wanderings. And there are of course many brave, non-spook, people working for Greenpeace, and they deserve better than a stupid trumped-up piracy chargem just as Lucas deserves better than a stupid trumped-up charge …

  • fedup

    no need to wonder, greenpeace activists occupied the Brent Spar platform in the North Sea back in 1995, along with accompanying demos of shell petrol stations. They won, Shell lost, nobody was arrested for piracy.

    The story of a defunct platform, in those heady days in which al Qiday had no franchises, and the war on terror was but a twinkle in the sick minds of its dreamers.

    And Shell lost and the Norwegian company won; dismantling the decommissioned, the defunct and inoperative platform. Much later (after the dough had been banked) it transpired that the toxicity levels of the substances on board the platform claimed, and the amounts there of on the said platform, were in fact all but “bullshit”.

    Further, reinforcing the general consensus on this thread; green peace is as dodgy as a fucking nine bob note.

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