October 17, 2013; Reuters U.K.


Eleven Nobel Laureates have sent a letter requesting fair treatment for 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists—now called the “Arctic 30”—who have been charged with piracy for boarding a Russian oil rig in protest of Arctic drilling and held since September 19 without bail by Russia. The piracy charges are punishable by up to 15 years in jail. The Nobel winners also endorsed the sentiments of the protest, declaring Arctic drilling a high risk for the environment.

Putin, himself has declared that the detainees are not pirates and his human rights advisor has ridiculed the charges and called for their withdrawal but that does not mean that the prisoners are likely to be released, since Russia’s top investigative body is now saying that drugs were found on Greenpeace’s boat, Arctic Sunrise, a charge that Greenpeace denies vehemently.

The letter and signatories follow:

Dear President Putin,

RE: Drop piracy charges & immediately release the “Arctic 30”

We are writing to ask you to do all you can to ensure that the excessive charges of piracy against the 28 Greenpeace activists, freelance photographer and freelance videographer are dropped, and that any charges brought are consistent with international and Russian law. We are confident that you share our desire to respect the right to nonviolent protest. 

As you know, Russian authorities have detained 30 members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise crew since September 19 when armed Russian authorities boarded the vessel in the Pechora Sea. The crew—which includes Russians and numerous other nationalities—had been engaged in a peaceful, nonviolent protest.

We were heartened by your statement, on September 25th, that you did not believe the Greenpeace crew members were pirates. As you know, the Greenpeace activists were unarmed and used only peaceful means to demonstrate their opposition to the oil drilling operations threatening the Arctic.

Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise. An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate.

Equally important is the contribution of Arctic oil drilling to climate change. Climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are paying the price for developed countries’ failure to act. Now is the time to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels and move towards a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy.

We urge all states to do their utmost to protect this precious treasure of humanity, while moving beyond a dependency on oil as an energy source. As one of the countries most directly concerned, we call on you to personally lead that effort.

We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the “Arctic 30” in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic.


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) — South Africa

Oscar Arias Sánchez, Nobel Peace Laureate (1987) – Costa Rica

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala

José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) — East Timor

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia

Less luminary activists can also voice their concerns about the arctic at SaveTheArctic.org and about the detentions at this page on the Greenpeace website.—Ruth McCambridge