Families of Canadian activists jailed in Russia urge Ottawa to intervene
Greenpeace Canada and Amnesty International Canada
30 October 2013 (Ottawa) – At a news conference on Parliament Hill today the families of two Canadian Greenpeace activists jailed in Murmansk, Russia, joined Greenpeace and Amnesty International in urging Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to step up his efforts to secure their release by speaking out publicly and using all available political channels.
“Last month, my brother took peaceful action to protest Arctic oil drilling,” said Patti Stirling of Port Colborne native Paul Ruzycki. “He wasn’t fighting against Russia; he was fighting to avert an environmental catastrophe. He helped call global attention to a threat to our present and the future generations, and is a hero deserving of all the help this government can give him.”
Since the seizure of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and the arrest of 28 activists and two freelance journalists, the ‘Arctic 30’ have earned significant political attention: the Dutch government is taking legal action at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea; and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as the European Commission and 11 Nobel laureates, have all spoken out publicly about the situation.
The Canadian government has sent diplomats to Murmansk and provided consular services, but has remained silent on the matter.
“The Canadian government was instrumental in securing the release of John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, and it can be instrumental in doing the same for Paul Ruzycki and Alexandre Paul,” said Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada. “We are urging Minister Baird to speak out in defense of these two Canadians and in defense of international law.”
“The arrest and detention of these 28 activists and two freelance journalists is a violation of key international human rights laws protecting essential rights to free expression and peaceful protest,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “Canada can and must work to ensure that the rights of the Arctic 30 are protected by pressing Russian authorities to release them immediately and halt their ill-founded attempts to criminally prosecute them for hooliganism.”
Paul Ruzyki and Alexandre Paul from Montreal, whose mother joined in the appeal on Parliament Hill, are being held without bail and remain in pre-trial custody until at least 24 November. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, both Canadians will be charged with hooliganism, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The European Parliament described these charges as “disproportionate” last week, stressing the “threat to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration.”
Under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), hooliganism is not accepted as grounds to board or seize a ship in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where the incidents occurred. The convention underlies the illegality of the seizure of the ship and its crew and the subsequent arrest and jailing of the Arctic 30, and is the basis of the Dutch government’s legal action at ITLOS. Both Russia and Canada have signed and ratified UNCLOS.
“My brother is not a pirate or a hooligan. He is a loving person and a conscientious citizen who has spent 25 years working to protect the environment,” affirmed Stirling.
Today Greenpeace Canada, together with the families of Ruzycki and Paul, launched a new petition calling on Baird and federal government to do everything within their power to secure the two men’s safe release. An international petition demanding the immediate release of the ‘Arctic 30’ has already been signed by over two million people globally.
For more information:
Diego Creimer, Media relations, Greenpeace Canada, 514-999-6743
John Tackaberry, Media relations, Amnesty International Canada, 613-744-7667 x 236