MOSCOW, October 7 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – Environmentalist group Greenpeace said Monday that it may file an international lawsuit against Russia to seek the release of activists it says are being kept under inhumane prison conditions.
The group says the activists are being prevented from opening the windows to their cells and being denied privacy through invasive monitoring, including in the toilet.
Greenpeace lawyer Sergei Golubok said detainees are able to speak to relatives by phone, but only in a language that prison officials can understand, which has prevented some of them from contacting their families. The group of 30 detainees is comprised of nationals of 18 countries, including the United States, Britain, Italy, France, Finland, Turkey, Sweden, Brazil and Argentina.
Russian border guards stormed Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker and detained the group last month after a group of activists attempted to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil platform operated by energy giant Gazprom in the Pechora Sea.
The environmental group has for months sought to highlight what they argue are the company’s environmentally damaging and economically unsustainable activities in the Arctic.
All those onboard were last week charged with piracy, an offense punishable under Russian law by up to 15 years in prison.
Golubok said conditions for the Arctic Sunrise group, who have been ordered to remain in pretrial custody until November 24, do not meet international standards.
Prison rules require detainees to speak Russian when addressing staff, which means that the many foreigners from the Arctic Sunrise unable to speak the language cannot issue basic requests, such as asking for windows to be opened.
“These are inhumane and humiliating conditions,” Golubok said.
The Murmansk Region branch of the Federal Prison Service could not immediately comment on the case.
Greenpeace has filed an appeal against the detainees’ arrest, requesting that they be released from custody ahead of their trial.
Greenpeace Russia representative Ivan Blokov said the group could make a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights if the plea for release, due on Tuesday, is rejected.
The Arctic Sunrise icebreaker was seized by authorities and has been languishing in Murmansk port since September 24.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Greenpeace representatives cited an Arctic Sunrise engineer as saying the ship will fill with water and sink without proper maintenance of its pumps, which are expected to run out of fuel soon.
Blokov said Greenpeace is appealing the ship’s seizure in the Russian Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s General’s Office.
The Investigative Committee, which is handling the piracy case, and the border service did not respond to faxed requests for comment.
Greenpeace held protests over the plight of the Arctic Sunrise group in 135 localities in 45 countries last weekend and has gathered more than 1 million signatures in their support.
The treatment of environmental protesters by the Russian authorities has changed radically since last year, when six Greenpeace activists spent 15 hours suspended from the same oil rig, halting its operations, and were able to leave without any legal repercussions.
“This is an absurd situation. I have no idea why they’ve done this,” Blokov said when asked about what prompted the Russian government’s harsher stance.