UN court: Russia must free detained Ukraine ships, sailors

Russia detained 24 Ukrainian sailors and three naval vessels off the Crimea peninsula late last year. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 May 2019
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UN court: Russia must free detained Ukraine ships, sailors

  • The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered its ruling Saturday on the case Ukraine brought against Russia
  • The confrontation in the Kerch Strait marked a flashpoint in the simmering conflict over Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula

BERLIN: A UN maritime tribunal ruled Saturday that Russia must immediately release three Ukrainian naval vessels it captured in November and free the 24 sailors it detained.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea issued its order at its Hamburg headquarters following a hearing earlier this month. Russia stayed away from both the hearing and Saturday's session.
Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said that Russia could send a signal of "real readiness to stop the conflict with Ukraine" by complying with the order. Russia didn't immediately specify what it would do, but made clear that it still believes the tribunal is the wrong place to address the dispute.
The confrontation in the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea, marked a flashpoint in the simmering conflict over Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Russia seized Crimea in a move that Ukraine and most of the world view as illegal. The Kerch Strait separates Crimea from mainland Russia.
Russia had argued that the rights Ukraine claims in the case don't apply because they are covered by an exception for military activity.
Kiev's lawyers contest this claim, saying Russia itself previously described the arrest as a law enforcement operation.
The tribunal sided with Ukraine's argument on that point. But tribunal President Jin-Hyun Paik said both parties should "refrain from taking any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute."
He said Russia must return the ships to Ukrainian custody and allow the servicemen to go home. The decision was a 19-1 vote, with a Russian judge dissenting.
The tribunal "does not consider it necessary to require (Russia) to suspend criminal proceedings against the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and refrain from initiating new proceedings," Paik added. Kiev had called for legal proceedings to be ended.
The tribunal's decisions are legally binding, but it has no power to enforce them. It called for both sides to report back on their compliance by June 25.
Zelenskiy said when he took office on Monday that the main goal of his presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years in a conflict that has left at least 13,000 dead.
On Saturday, Zelenskiy said on Twitter that "Russia's fulfillment of the order ... could be a first signal from the side of the Russian leadership of real readiness to stop the conflict with Ukraine. In this way, Russia could take a step toward unblocking talks and resolving in a civilized way problems that it created."
"We'll see what path the Kremlin will choose," he added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry didn't address details of the order to release the ships and sailors. It underlined in a statement its argument that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea's dispute resolution procedures can't be applied to this dispute.
In subsequent arbitration proceedings at the tribunal, "we intend to consistently defend our position, including the lack of jurisdiction," it said.


Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

US journalist Amanda Knox cries as she addresses a panel discussion titled "Trial by Media" during the Criminal Justice Festival at the Law University of Modena, northern Italy on June 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 9 min 32 sec ago
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Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

  • Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth”

ROME: Taking the stage Saturday at an Italian conference on justice, Amanda Knox accused the media of having built a false narrative around her during her yearslong murder trial and appeals process, depicting her as guilty even though she was eventually acquitted.
The former exchange student from the United States who became the focus of a sensational murder case returned to Italy this week for the first time since an appeals court acquitted her in 2011 in the slaying of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Knox, speaking in Italian on a panel discussion at the Criminal Justice Festival in Modena titled “Trial by media,” said she was depicted “on the global scene as cunning, psychopath, drug-addicted, whore. Guilty.”
Speaking through tears, she said the media that labelled her “Foxy Knoxy” invented a “false and baseless story, which fueled people’s fantasies and talked to their fears.”
Knox’s 2011 acquittal was part of a long legal process that saw multiple flip-flop rulings before she was definitively acquitted in 2015 by Italy’s highest court.
Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth.”
She also criticized Italian prosecutors, who described a scenario made up of “orgies and sex toys” during her first trial, even though that version of the story was toned down in the appeal.
Knox acknowledged that despite her final acquittal “I remain a controversial figure in the public opinion, especially here in Italy.”
She had been accused with her Italian boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivorian-born Rudy Guede of killing Kercher on Nov. 1, 2007, in the university town of Perugia. After multiple rulings, Italy’s highest court definitively acquitted Knox and Sollecito in 2015. Guede is still serving a 16-year sentence.
During her speech, which was followed by a standing ovation, Knox recalled Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini as the one who accused her in his search for justice.
“One day I’d like to meet the real Mignini, and I hope that when he comes, he will also see that I am not a monster, I simply am Amanda,” Knox said.
On Friday, the lawyer for Kercher’s family described Knox’s invitation to speak at the Criminal Justice Festival as “inappropriate.”
“Inviting her to a technical panel on justice was a mistake,” Francesco Maresca told The Associated Press, adding that “lawyers for both parts should have been involved.”