Gareth Hughes

Tonight my mate goes to sleep in a Russian jail

by Gareth Hughes

Right now, a friend of mine is languishing in a small cell in a district court in Murmansk along with a dozen others, pending the results of a two-month long investigation into alleged piracy during a peaceful Greenpeace protest.

On Sunday, the world was shocked with news that Russia had used armed Coastguard to board and detain the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, which was protesting incredibly risky deepsea drilling in the fragile Arctic.

Since then, the situation has escalated alarmingly. The ship has been seized, and thirteen peaceful protestors from all over the world have this morning been detained for two months.

I sailed with one of the New Zealanders, David Haussman, on the Rainbow Warrior before I entered Parliament. I’ve been lucky to call Haussey a mate for years, and to have fought alongside him to give our earth a voice. I have enormous respect for his grit, resolve, and optimism in this awful situation.

The Greenpeace activists’ ongoing detention is unwarranted. As Bunny McDiarmid said today, it’s basic intimidation – continued detention without charge breaches international law, and allegations of piracy are laughably false. In fact, the Dutch government has effectively asked Russia to ‘please explain’ and state which law Greenpeace have broken, or they will consider taking legal action against the Russian government.

These activists are amazing, inspiring people, doing incredibly important and difficult work, with little to no recognition. The Arctic is possibly the most important battleground in the climate fight, and it’s imperative that dangerous drilling like that which Gazprom would undertake doesn’t go ahead. These activists knew that their actions in Putin’s Russia were risky, but still put themselves on the line for all of us. To be held with such brutal and ongoing disrespect for basic human rights – such as access to legal counsel – is beyond reproach though, even for Putin. Russian authorities are actively neglecting their obligations under international law.

Right now, John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully is in New York lobbying for NZ to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. If we as a country have any respect for the integrity of international law, then Key must call on Russia to afford these brave activists their basic rights. To fail to do so is internationally irresponsible.

To Haussey, and the dozen other activists unjustly behind bars: kia kaha. We’re with you all the way.


Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, detained by armed Russian Coastguard



Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Fri, September 27th, 2013   

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