Whaling activists face uncertain future

 Photo by Isaac Kohane, Flikr

Photo by Isaac Kohane, Flikr

The three Australian environmental activists detained on a Japanese whaling ship could face a wide range of charges and may even have broken Australian law, according to an international law expert from The Australian National University.

Professor Donald Rothwell of the ANU College of Law says that there are a number of possible outcomes for the activists being held onboard the whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2.

"First, like the case of Pete Bethune in 2010, they may face a variety of charges under Japanese law," said Professor Rothwell.

"Unauthorised boarding of a Japanese vessel is an act of trespass wherever that act may have taken place at sea. If the Japanese authorities decide to investigate and bring charges on these grounds, the Australians will find themselves being sent to Japan to face court.

"Second, Australian law may have been broken by the unauthorised boarding. These laws include the Crimes (Ships and Fixed Platforms) Act 1992, and the Crimes at Sea Act 2000. However, for Australian authorities to investigate they will need the cooperation of Japan and the Master and crew of the Shonan Maru 2. This appears unlikely at present as the whaling vessel is steaming towards the Southern Ocean."

Professor Rothwell added that, as in a previous case, it may be that Japanese authorities opt not to prosecute the activists and instead return them to Australia.

"The Japanese authorities may elect not to prosecute the Australians, in which case there will be a need for their return," he said.

"Australian authorities would need to facilitate such a transfer. In 2008 an Australian, Benjamin Potts, and another Sea Shepherd member who had boarded a Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean were handed over to the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking."

For s: Professor Donald Rothwell - 02 6125 8948 / 0414 546 830

: James Giggacher - 02 6125 7988 / 0416 249 241

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