The Russian Government has broken international law by confiscating a Greenpeace ship and detaining its crew after a protest against Arctic oil drilling in 2013, an international tribunal has ruled.
The court also ordered Russia to pay damages to the Netherlands over its seizure of the Greenpeace icebreaker, Arctic Sunrise.
Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons said: "We’re pleased about today’s ruling because it sets an important precedent. Governments exist to uphold the rule of law, not to act as armed security agents for the oil industry.
"This kind of behaviour is not limited to the Russian authorities, across the world, environmental activists are facing serious intimidation from those who wish to silence them."
In September 2013, Russian Special Forces seized the Netherlands-flagged vessel and arrested Greenpeace activists a day after activists staged a protest against Arctic oil drilling at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, which is operated by state-owned company Gazprom.
The court ruled that the 3nm ‘safety zone’ declared by Russia around the platform was not valid or enforceable. Thus, the country had no other legal basis to seize the vessel without the consent of the Netherlands.
However, a spokeswoman for Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Moscow did not recognise the court’s authority saying that the ruling "in effect, encourages non-peaceful protesting activity in the sea," Reuters reported.
The court said the amount of damages would be decided later.