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The Arctic 30

European Court of Human Rights rules ‘Arctic 30’ were arbitrarily detained
Sini Saarela Bail Hearing at Court in Murmansk

Main image: Bail hearing for Greenpeace International activist Sini Saarela (from Finland), one of the ‘Arctic 30’. Regional Court of Murmansk. © Greenpeace

The European Court of Human Rights has issued its ruling in the long-running case of the Arctic 30 v Russia, finding that Russian authorities arbitrarily detained the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists and violated their right to freedom of expression.

The individuals, who became known as the Arctic 30, were detained on suspicion of piracy after Russian commandos boarded the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter in September 2013.

The commandos seized the ship following a protest against Arctic oil production at the ice-resistant platform Prirazlomnaya in the Pechora Sea, off Russia’s north coast.

‘A clear signal’

The Arctic 30 spent two months in detention centres – first in the Arctic city of Murmansk and later in St Petersburg – before being released on bail and finally freed completely, and allowed to leave Russia.

‘At a time when authorities in many states are taking previously unheard of harsh action against climate activists, the European Court of Human Rights is sending a clear signal to European states that defending the environment is desirable and people’s right to protest must be protected.’

Legal counsel for the Arctic 30

Greenpeace banned in Russia

Harsh measures taken against peaceful environmental protesters this year include climate activists sentenced to three years in prison for scaling a bridge in the UK, and five months for blocking a road in Germany, as well as ‘preventative arrests’ of XR activists in the Netherlands.

Last month, Greenpeace International was designated an ‘undesirable organisation’ by Russian authorities, prompting Greenpeace Russia to close its operation. This marked the end of 30 years of environmental work in the country.

In a statement Greenpeace International said: ‘The ban on Greenpeace International activities in Russia is an absurd, irresponsible and destructive step in the face of the global climate and biodiversity crises.’

Russia was excluded from the Council of Europe in March 2022, including the European Court of Human Rights, but this did not affect pending cases.

‘Peaceful protest is vital in addressing and navigating the polycrisis affecting people and the planet. As people everywhere awaken to the blight of private profit and power being placed before their interests or that of the planet, the European Court of Human Rights reminds us that peaceful public protest is a right that public authorities must respect in full.’

Executive director, Greenpeace International

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