MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russia said Wednesday it will not take part in an international tribunal over a Greenpeace ship and its international crew who are currently under arrest in Russia.
As appeals for release on bail by the detained environmental activists continued to be rejected Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement dismissing the formal request submitted Monday by the Dutch government to the Germany-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Moscow said it will not get involved in the tribunal proceedings, which could see the Hamburg-based court order Russia to release the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sea icebreaker and its 30 crew members, who are currently in custody in the northern Russian city of Murmansk, having been charged with piracy after staging a protest at an offshore Arctic oil rig in mid-September.
“The Russian side has informed the Netherlands and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that it does not accept the arbitration procedure in the Arctic Sunrise case, and is not planning to take part in the tribunals,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday, adding that Moscow is still “open to the settlement” of the case. The statement did not elaborate.
The ministry insisted Russia is not obliged to recognize the authority of the maritime tribunal, saying the Russian government does not have to participate in disputes that concern “sovereign rights” and “jurisdiction.”
The tribunal the Dutch have turned to adjudicates in disputes arising from interpretation and application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
When Russia ratified the convention in 1997, it submitted an accompanying statement saying it would not accept procedures that led to the tribunal making binding decisions concerning national sovereignty, the ministry said.
Greenpeace International fired back with a statement later Wednesday, noting that the cited reservation to the convention is “overboard and does not apply in this instance.”
“It’s positive to see that Russia remains open to settling this case. That said, Russia cannot pick and choose which parts of the Convention on the Laws at Sea it will apply,” Greenpeace International’s legal counsel, Daniel Simons, said in an e-mailed statement. “If the Russian Federation believes the tribunal lacks jurisdiction, the normal and proper thing to do would be to raise this at the hearing,” he added.
He stressed that the Dutch authorities initiated the case to seek the release of the crew and make it possible for them to go home while a Russian court sets a date for the trial.
On Wednesday, the Murmansk regional court rejected appeals to release on bail captain's mate Miguel Hernan Perez Orsi from Argentina and Dmitry Litvinov, a US-Swedish crew member, Greenpeace wrote on its Twitter account Wednesday.
Earlier, the same court rejected the appeals of 26 other crew members.
If found guilty of piracy, they face up to 15 years in prison.
Updated to include the two latest appeals being rejected.