Skip to main content

Greenpeace vigil for 'Arctic 30' held in Russia, as Dutch file legal case

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
October 5, 2013 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Greenpeace urges supporters to join a vigil in support of 30 people detained by Russia
  • The Netherlands launches legal action under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea
  • The 30 detained -- 28 activists and 2 freelance journalists -- are charged with piracy
  • They were arrested on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise as they protested Arctic drilling

(CNN) -- Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has called for people to join a "global day of solidarity" Saturday for 30 people detained and charged with piracy by Russia as they protested Arctic drilling last month.

Russian authorities made the arrests after two of the activists left the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise and tried to climb the side of an oil platform owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom in the Barents Sea.

Greenpeace has condemned the Russian action, saying its activists were taking part in a peaceful protest against the "slow but unrelenting destruction of the Arctic."

The group has called on supporters around the world to stage candlelight vigils Saturday, holding signs saying "Free the Arctic 30," to highlight the plight of those detained.

2012: Russia's big Arctic oil ambitions

All 30 people aboard the ship, including 28 activists and two freelance journalists from at least 18 countries, were charged last week with piracy.

Meanwhile, the government in the Netherlands -- where the Arctic Sunrise is registered -- wrote to the Dutch parliament Friday to say it has launched legal action aimed at freeing the 30 under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

"With regard to its detention of the ship, Russia invokes its authority to ensure safety at sea in the vicinity of the oil platform," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote. "The Netherlands agrees on the importance of safety at sea, but in this case we contest the lawfulness of detaining the ship and its crew."

The "arbitral procedure" it has filed focuses "on what the Netherlands views as the unlawfulness of boarding and detaining the ship and on our demand for the release of the ship and its crew," it said.

"Under this procedure the Netherlands can in two weeks, if insufficient progress has been made, request the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to prescribe provisional measures for the release of the ship and its crew."

This would not interfere with Russia's ability to pursue criminal proceedings against the 30 people, Timmermans said.

Two of those detained are Dutch nationals, both of whom are receiving consular assistance.

The defendants also include Americans Peter Wilcox, who is the captain of the Arctic Sunrise, and Dmitry Litvinov, who Greenpeace says also holds Swedish citizenship.

Greenpeace ship captain defies orders, Russians resort to towing

The other detainees are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Britain, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Turkey, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, the United States and Sweden, the group said.

None of those charged last week pleaded guilty, Russia's Investigative Committee said. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Lawyers acting on Greenpeace's behalf have filed appeals in court seeking the defendants' release, Greenpeace said Thursday.

Greenpeace International's General Counsel Jasper Teulings said Friday he welcomed the Dutch government's "strong stance in support of the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest. Russian officials will now be called to explain their actions before an international court of law, where it will be unable to justify these absurd piracy allegations."

Russian authorities accuse the defendants of trying to commandeer the platform.

The authorities and Gazprom also say the activists endangered the lives of the company's employees and that their action could have led to an environmental disaster.

CNN's Bharati Naik, Alla Eshchenko and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT