AMSTERDAM – The European Court of Human Rights today delivered its verdict in the long-running Arctic 30 v. Russia case, finding that the Russian authorities arbitrarily arrested the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists and violated their right to freedom of expression.
The group, which became known as the Arctic 30, was arrested on suspicion of piracy after Russian commandos boarded the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter in September 2013 and seized the ship after opposing Arctic oil exploration on the ice-resistant Platform Prirazlomnaya had protested the Pechora Sea off the north coast of Russia. They spent two months in detention centers - first in the arctic city of Murmansk and later in St. Petersburg - before being released on bail and eventually released outright and allowed to leave Russia.
Sergey Golubok, Arctic 30's legal counsel welcomed the verdict: “At a time when authorities in many countries are taking unprecedented tough action against climate activists, the European Court of Human Rights is sending a clear signal to European countries that protecting the environment is desirable and people’s right to protest must be protected. “ ”
Faiza Oulahsen, climate and energy campaign leader at Greenpeace Netherlands and one of the Arctic 30, said: “This verdict could not come at a more critical time. Everywhere, people are rising up in opposition to the fossil fuel industry that is driving us deeper into the climate crisis, causing death, destruction and displacement around the world. The court has recognized that climate activism is necessary to protect everything we hold dear, declaring it "an expression of opinion on a matter of significant concern to society". Courts and governments must defend people and nature, not big polluters.”
said Mads Flarup Christensen, executive director of Greenpeace International: “Peaceful protest is vital to addressing and managing the polycrisis affecting people and the planet. As people everywhere recognize that private profit and private power are put before their interests or those of the planet, the European Court of Human Rights reminds us that peaceful public protest is a right that authorities must fully respect ."
Some of the tough measures taken against peaceful environmental protesters this year include climate activists being 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 "preventive Arrests” by XR activists in the Netherlands.
Last month, Greenpeace International was classified as an "undesirable organization" by Russian authorities, prompting Greenpeace Russia to close its operations, ending 30 years of environmental work in the country. In a statement, Greenpeace International said: "The ban on the activities of Greenpeace International in Russia is an absurd, irresponsible and destructive step in view of the global climate and biodiversity crisis."
Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe and thus also from the European Court of Human Rights in March 2022, but this had no impact on pending cases.
 The full court judgment in the case of Bryan and others against Russia (Commonly known as Arctic 30 vs Russia) is available on the website of the European Court of Human Rights. The Arguments put forward on behalf of the Arctic 30 are on the Greenpeace International website.
 The capture of the Arctic Sunrise and her crew also triggered an attack Legal dispute under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2015, an international tribunal ruled that Russia violated the rights of the Netherlands as the ship's flag state and ordered it to pay compensation. The dispute between the Netherlands and Russia was settled in 2019. The European Court of Human Rights ruled not to award additional compensation to the Arctic 30 given the amount they received after the settlement.