By: Alex Oude Elferink
PDF version: https://site.uit.no/jclos/files/2019/07/JCLOS-Blog-8.7.2019-Settlement-of-the-Dispute-concerning-the-Arctic-Sunrise_Elferink.pdf
Document commented upon: Joint statement of the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on scientific cooperation in the Russian Arctic region and the settlement of a dispute (Joint statement)
In the fall of 2013, the detention of the vessel Arctic Sunrise and its crew by Russian security forces was breaking news. The detention followed a protest action of Greenpeace activists against the rig Prirazlomnaia, which planned to begin the commercial production of oil in the Pechora Sea in the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation accused the activists of engaging among others in piracy and hooliganism. The activists faced criminal charges entailing long-term prison terms. The detention of the vessel and its crew prompted the Netherlands, the flag State of the Arctic Sunrise, to start arbitral proceedings against the Russian Federation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Convention), to which both States are parties. The Russian Federation immediately rejected that the arbitral tribunal had the jurisdiction to deal with this dispute and abstained from participating in the proceedings. However, the non-participation of the Russian Federation did not stop the arbitral procedure. Prior to the constitution of the arbitral tribunal, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), in an order indicating provisional measures to protect the rights of the Netherlands, had already ordered the Russian Federation to release the Arctic Sunrise and its crew. Although the Russian Federation did not comply with the order of the ITLOS, it did release the crew of the Arctic Sunrise as part of an amnesty in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution in December 2013. The bill introduced in the State Duma was amended at the last moment to include the charges that had been brought against the crew members. This probably did much to defuse media attention for the Arctic Sunrise incident in the Western press. The Arctic Sunrise itself was eventually allowed to leave the Russian port of Murmansk in June of 2014.