Amsterdam, 9 August 2014 - The Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise today sailed back into Dutch territorial waters after over 300 days in Russian custody. The ship had been held illegally since taking part in a peaceful direct action against state owned oil company Gazprom, as it tried to drill the world’s first oil well in icy Arctic waters.
Several members of the so called ‘Arctic 30’ were there to greet the ship and boarded the vessel in Beverwijk, near Amsterdam.
“This is a joyous day for me, for my friends and for the millions of people around the world who campaigned for the release of the Arctic 30 and the Arctic Sunrise”, says Dutch climate and energy campaigner Faiza Oulahsen, who spent two months in a Russian prison last year on piracy and then hooliganism charges following the protest.
“The companies and governments who seek to exploit this vulnerable region for profit have tried to silence the growing call to protect the Arctic for future generations. But they have not succeeded. And they will not. The Arctic Sunrise will sail again. By now more than 5 million people worldwide have spoken out for Arctic protection.”
Oulahsen went on to thank the broad sweep of civil society organizations and individuals who spoke out on behalf of the activists including 11 Nobel peace prize winners, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a host of senior political figures from across the world.
“We are both incredibly grateful for the huge level of support we received, and conscious that many others have not been so lucky. I would like to use this opportunity to support the many other peaceful environmental activists who remain oppressed or imprisoned for their beliefs, both in Russia and around the world.”
The activists saw the ship for the first time since it was seized by Russian security agents on September 19th 2013. The ship will now sail to the harbour of Amsterdam, accompanied by a fleet of Greenpeace supporters in small vessels.
In Amsterdam the Arctic Sunrise will host a humble, but festive homecoming ceremony. On board the ship is a samovar, a traditional Russian tea-pot. The tea-pot, engraved with the words ‘MY Arctic Sunrise - From Russia with love’, will stay on board, as an ongoing symbol of support and care from the Russian Arctic defenders. Once the Arctic Sunrise arrives in Amsterdam, members of the Arctic 30 will drink the ceremonial first cups of tea from the samovar.
In a few days the ship will be moved to a shipyard in Amsterdam for much needed repairs. Even though captain Daniel Rizzotti and his crew have worked hard for several weeks in Murmansk to make the Arctic Sunrise seaworthy again, a lot of work still needs to be done. Within two weeks Greenpeace expects to have a thorough idea of the extent of the damage.
For more information please contact: Ilse van der Poel, in Amsterdam: , +31 (0)6 250 310 12
- Photos of the departure of the Arctic Sunrise and the Russian samovar can be found here
- Photos of life on board of the Arctic Sunrise during the transit from Murmansk to Amsterdam can be found here
For video please contact Carin Bazuin, , +31 (0)6 5350 4707
Background: The Arctic Sunrise was used as a support vessel during a protest at Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform on September 18th 2013. Two climbers attempted to hang a small "Save The Arctic" banner on the platform's side before Russian commandos fired warning shots into the water beneath them and forced them to descend their ropes. The next day, the Arctic Sunrise was boarded and towed to Murmansk. All 28 activists along with two freelance journalists were arrested and charged with piracy and then hooliganism. The Arctic 30 were released in November 2013, and the 26 non-Russians left the country on or around December 27th 2013, following the adoption of an amnesty law in the Russian Duma. On July 18th 2014, Greenpeace International was informed that Russia’s Investigative Committee would further extend its investigation into the Arctic 30 case until September 24th 2014, despite a criminal case against the 30 being dropped last December.
On November 22nd, 2013, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to 'immediately' release the vessel upon the posting of a €3.6 million bond by the Netherlands. The bond was posted by December 2nd 2013.
In March, the Arctic 30 submitted their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The 30 individuals are requesting "just compensation" from the Russian Federation, and importantly, a statement from the independent Court saying that their apprehension in international waters by Russian agents and subsequent detention were unlawful.
The European Court has the power to hold Russia to account for the months of uncertainty the Arctic 30 faced in Russia. While held in detention centres they lived with the fear that they could spend years locked up for a crime they did not commit. The European Court has jurisdiction over matters involving alleged human rights violations committed by Russia’s government. In many cases Russia’s government has been found liable for such violations and ordered to compensate victims. Ultimately, this case aims to ensure Russia lives up to its human rights commitments.