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Russia refuses to take part in proceedings initiated by the Netherlands at an international maritime tribunal on the Arctic Sunrise case


MOSCOW, Oct. 23 – RAPSI. The experts questioned by RAPSI believe that Russia is not going to participate in the international tribunal on the case of the Arctic Sunrise and her crew. This, however, is unlikely to hinder the tribunal in Hamburg, where the Netherlands went in connection with the incident.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared Wednesday that Russia refused international tribunal. The statement said that breaching Russian legislation on the exclusive economic zones and continental shelf was the point, and that the respective investigation was in course.

Gennady Melkov, member of the Scientific and Expert Council of the Maritime Association under the Government of the Russian Federation told RAPSI Wednesday: “Safety requirements at the platform were violated. Greenpeace activists had no right to approach the platform closer than 500 meters away from any point of its external edge”. As regards the position of the Russian Federation on the tribunal, according to him, it is irrelevant: the tribunal is empowered to pass a binding judgment in any case.

Advocate Alexander Glushenkov is of the same opinion: “From the point of view of the Russian law, an offence occurred, and liability has arisen. The procedures currently in course are formally legal”. A.Glushenkov also thinks that nothing prevents the international tribunal to pass a judgment in absentia, provided the incident occurred in neutral waters. However, another problem arises subsequently: execution of the judgment, since there are no legal mechanisms to enforce that. A.Glushenkov said that acknowledgement of international arbitration, and in this case – tribunal, awards is voluntary.

Evgeny Zhilin, Partner of Law Firm "YUST", says that the Ministry’s statement is fully logical in the context of the exceptions that the Russian Federation made, when it joined the UN Convention on the law of the sea of 1982.

E.Zhilin reminded: “Ratification of the Convention, which fixes the competence of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, was accompanied by a declaration that Russia does not adopt the compulsory dispute settlement procedures as stipulated by the Convention concerning, inter alia, “the activity of safeguarding the compliance to the laws in relation to the execution of sovereign rights and jurisdiction””.

According to him, as the Prirazlomnaya platform is located within the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation, and all matters regarding the use of artificial constructs located in the exclusive economic zone including safety issues fall within the competence of the littoral state, Russia is entitled to such exception in the Arctic Sunrise case – which was done.

E.Zhilin believes that such declaration should cause termination of the arbitration proceedings. However, he does consider the possibility that the arbitration tribunal might still believe that Russian arguments are unfounded since the measures employed by Russia are not fully in proportion to the offence committed. The expert told RAPSI: “Operation of the ecologists was doubtlessly a peaceful one, was done without the use of weapons and was not aimed at pillaging alien property. I believe it is quite possible that the tribunal will conclude that, during the detention of the ecologists and during the subsequent investigation of the case, Russia exceeded its jurisdiction that the Convention acknowledges for the littoral state and violated the freedom of navigation – one of the basic principles of the international law of the sea”.

Chronology of the conflict

The ship flying the flag of the Netherlands and crewed by an international team was detained in the Pechora sea on September 18, when the environmentalists, performing against oil extraction in the Arctic, attempted to storm the Prirazlomnaya oil rig owned by Gazprom Neft Shelf. As a result, the 30 activists were arrested and charged with piracy, and the ship is anchored in Murmansk awaiting its further destiny. Dutchman Mannes Ubels, mechanic, is among the arrested.

In connection with the incident, the Netherlands initiated a trial in the specialized judicial instance – the International tribunal on the law of the sea established under the UN Convention on the law of the sea of 1982. The tribunal is empowered to consider any disputes arising in connection with the interpretation of the provisions and the validity of the Convention as well as disputes on agreements that are within the Tribunal’s competence. Mainly the member states of the Convention may go to the Tribunal.

The Dutchmen began by demanding that security measures be taken in order to consider the case on its merits, in particular – to let the ship leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, to set the crew free, to suspend the administrative and judicial proceedings on the Arctic Sunrise case in course in the Russian instances.

The Tribunal promptly responded by promising to schedule the hearing on the matter of security measures. When Russia stated its refusal of trial on the case, the Tribunal did not comment.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also justified Russia’s position by that Russia ratified the Convention in 1997, but refused to adopt the Convention procedures of settlement of disputes on exercising sovereign rights and jurisdiction that lead to binding decisions.

See the source of the publication here.

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