This past Saturday, Greenpeace Canada held vigils in Toronto and Montreal in order to draw attention to the fact that two Canadians, Alexandre Paul and Paul Ruzycki, are rotting in a Russian jail cell awaiting their show trial for protesting against drilling for oil in the Arctic by Gazprom, Russia’s massive transnational energy corporation. The charges against them you ask? PIRACY!!!
That’s right. According to the authoritarian logic of the Putin regime, these eco-activists’ peaceful protest was actually an act of criminality and violence against the state of Russia on the high seas. And they are no less guilty then such memorable pirates as Captain Blackbeard or the Somalis behind the hijacking of Maersk Alabama.
Piracy under international law (unlike so much else in that area) is one of the oldest and most well-defined crimes. Basically the International Convention on the Law of the Sea holds that piracy is act of robbery or criminal violence, at sea, land or air. Seeing as none of these folks were armed, it’s hard to understand where the Russian authorities are coming from in this case. Conversely, the Russian commandos that seized their ship (the Arctic Sunrise) and captured the crew, were armed to the teeth.
Meanwhile, the Australian Liberal Government (actually they’re conservatives, how confusing is that?) has publicly denounced the detention of their nationals by the Russian government on the pretext of piracy. Their foreign minister has already registered her concern with her Russian counterpart about the treatment of their nationals who were involved in the incident. Greenpeace claims that Colin Russel is stuck in a cell 23 hours a day and has not been able to contact his wife or family, in violation of his human rights.
In Ottawa, however, barely a word about the matter from Stephen Harper and our Foreign Minister John Baird, beyond the standard promise, by a flak for the Foreign Affairs Department, of “consular services” for our Canadians being detained indefinitely by a judicial system that notoriously disregards universally recognized principles of international law and basic human rights. Don’t take my word for it, just watch the HBO documentary on the Kafkaesque trial of Pussy Riot (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer).
I guess this is yet another example of Harper’s indifference towards anyone who doesn’t share his well-documented love affair with the oil industry (ironically, Russia is Canada’s rival in extracting oil and gas reserves in the Arctic sea) even when the people in question are Canadian citizens with rights he is sworn to protect.