Greenpeace is suing Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for detaining its members during a protest last year against Arctic drilling.
Russian security forces in September detained 30 Greenpeace activists and journalists and seized their Arctic Sunrise ship over the protest at an offshore oil rig owned by state energy giant Gazprom.
The 30, including Tasmanian Colin Russell, were detained for around two months before being bailed and then benefiting from a Kremlin-backed amnesty.
Greenpeace wants compensation and a declaration that the detention for a peaceful protest was illegal, as it breached the group’s right to liberty and to freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia has acceded.
“We think the Arctic 30 were apprehended and detained in flagrant violation of applicable international and Russian laws,” lawyer Sergey Golubok said in a statement.
“The reaction of the Russian authorities was completely disproportionate to the peaceful protest that took place,” he said.
“It needs to be made clear by the European Court that the Russian government overstepped the mark, otherwise this will inhibit freedom of political expression,” said Reece Turner, a Greenpeace campaigner who helped work on the Arctic 30 campaign.
“We want to see a verdict from the European Court which acknowledges that the Russian government breached their obligations by denying the protestors their liberty… the actions of the government were grossly excessive in comparison to the peaceful protest that Greenpeace undertook.”
Mr Turner told SBS the activists were also seeking compensation for being “unlawfully detained”.
“The activists are also seeking compensation for the damages that they suffered as a result of being unlawfully detained and the costs and expenses for defending their case in Russia,” he said.
The arrested group had faced the risk of lengthy prison sentences before being amnestied, while Russian authorities are still holding the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise.
Greenpeace, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, said it could take over a year for the ECHR to communicate the case to Russia.
“It could a year or more for the European Court to communicate this case and have an outcome,” Mr Turner said, “but we are urging the Court to take up the case as soon as possible.”