23 Oct Shocker! Russia Walks Away from UNCLOS Arbitration and Will Ignore Netherlands Petition Over Greenpeace Detentions*
[Update below] It looks like China has started a trend. In a surprising statement (at least to me), Russia has announced it will not participate in the ITLOS arbitration brought by the Netherlands related to the detention of Greenpeace activists last month.
“The Russian side has informed the Netherlands and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that it does not accept the arbitration procedure in the Arctic Sunrise case, and is not planning to take part in the tribunals,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday, adding Moscow is still “open to the settlement” of the case. The statement did not elaborate.
The ministry insisted Russia is not obliged to recognize the authority of the maritime tribunal, saying the Russian government does not have to participate in disputes that concern “sovereign rights” and “jurisdiction.”
Hmm. This formulation sounds familiar somehow. Actually, Russia is citing its UNCLOS declaration, which excludes dispute settlement under UNCLOS “concerning law-enforcement activities in regard to the exercise of sovereign rights or jurisdiction.” But it echoes the Chinese objection as well.
I had written a post on the Netherlands memorial in support of its action against Russia in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea seeking “provisional measures”, but I forgot to publish it. Which is just as well. Because it looks like Russia is going to ignore whatever arbitration proceedings are constituted under Annex VII (following the Chinese example). I can’t tell from this report, but it may be that Russia may ignore the ITLOS “provisional measures” hearing that is likely to be scheduled soon as well.
As Greenpeace’s attorneys rightly point out, ““If the Russian Federation believes the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction, the normal and proper thing to do would be to raise this at the hearing,” This would apply to China and the Philippines as well. If Russia does simply walk away, this is another body blow to the dispute settlement under the UNCLOS system, especially considering that Russia has accepted the jurisdiction of the ITLOS in past disputes.
*After this post went up, I noticed that Russia has also dropped the piracy charges against the Greenpeace activists, charging them now with hooliganism. This doesn’t seem to affect their position on ITLOS arbitration, though. But perhaps settlement will be easier?