An open letter signed by eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday is calling for the Russian government to immediately drop the piracy charges and release the 28 Greenpeace activists and two documentarians who were taken into custody last month in the aftermath of a peaceful protest against Arctic drilling off the Russian coast.
The signatories, including Arch Bishop Desmond TuTu and US peace campaigner Jody Williams, called on Putin to treat the international crew—now known as the “Arctic 30”—in accordance with international law and warned against pursuing charges that would criminalize peaceful protest.
“We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the ‘Arctic 30’ in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic.” —from the letter
In the letter to Putin, the peace campaigners highlighted the importance of Greenpeace’s ongoing campaign to stop oil and gas drilling in the world’s northern seas, calling the recently opened waters where exploratory drilling is now underway a sign of the terrible impacts already being caused by global warming.
“Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise,” the letter reads. “An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate.”
As for the activists, and the one photographer and one videographer arrested with them, their attempts to receive bail or be released pending trial have been rebuffed. If convicted, they face sentences of 15 years in prison.
In The Netherlands, where Greenpeace International’s home offices are located, legal action has been initiated to try to free the crew members and their ship, The Arctic Sunrise. In addition, more than 1.4 million people across the globe have joined a special Greenpeace campaign under the banner of #FreeTheArctic 30.
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In a statement in response to the letter from Putin’s office, the president’s press secretary said Putin simply has no power to influence the decision of the courts.
“Investigative bodies deal with [criminal charges],” said Putin spokeperson, Dmitry Peskov, “and everyone should wait for the end of the investigation process and the court’s verdict.”
“A law is a law,” he said.
The complete letter from the Nobel laureates follows (via Greenpeace):