Setting the Record Straight on Paul Watson's Legal Status
Sea Shepherd Addresses the Impact Of Interpol ‘Red Notice’ On Captain Watson and the Organization’s Operations
After much speculation and misinformation about the impact of the recently announced ‘Red Notice’ issued by Interpol for Captain Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who was arrested at Frankfurt airport on May 13th and held in Germany for 70 days until his departure on or around July 22nd, Sea Shepherd is setting the record straight. Using information posted to its website as provided in a letter from Captain Watson’s lead legal counsel in Germany, Oliver Wallasch, Sea Shepherd addresses the speculation head-on with the legal facts of this case.
Read the full unedited letter here.
Questions & Answers
Q.: What is the impact of Captain Watson forfeiting bail to leave Germany?
A.: Skipping bail in Germany is not a crime! This is totally different from U.S. jurisdiction and from other countries in the world. Article 2 of the German constitution states, that Germany grants personal freedom. Therefore it is not even a crime in Germany to escape from prison. The decision of the client to leave the country leads only to the consequence that the local (not international!) arrest warrant of the Higher Regional Court was set into force, and that bail is seized (forfeited) on decision by the court. Because of the fact that the client was arrested in an extradition procedure, Germany is not actively searching for Mr. Watson locally or internationally.
Q.: What is the extradition procedure in Germany as it pertains to this case?
A.: In the case of Mr. Watson, we knew that besides the request of Costa Rica, there was also a ‘blue’ note issued by Interpol on charges from Japan against the client. This ‘blue’ note on the warrant from Japan has been active since 2010 and has not converted into a ‘red’ notice with Interpol during the whole extradition procedure with Costa Rica. But we learned that Japan was highly interested concerning the procedure with Costa Rica because they sent requests through Interpol Tokyo to the Higher Regional Court to gather more information on the procedure itself. This was absolutely unusual. The German authorities are allowed to extradite even without a special treaty with the requesting country. Therefore it was very likely that Japan would ask for extradition itself on a bilateral basis; after Mr. Watson left the country, we learned that such an extradition request was forwarded by the Japanese Embassy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the General Public Prosecution Office in Frankfurt. The scenario would have been that Mr. Watson would have been extradited to Costa Rica, and then extradited after the procedure to Japan.
These facts show, that there was a link between the extradition request from Costa Rica and the upcoming extradition request from Japan. Having in mind that the president of Costa Rica visited Japan at the end of 2011, having in mind that Japan granted an enormous amount of money for “environmental protection” in Costa Rica, it is obvious that these two countries have a very close relationship.
Q.: Is the Interpol ‘Red’ Notice a warrant and what is its impact?
A.: Interpol Notices are international alerts allowing police in member countries to share information. Interpol is not actively issuing arrest warrants, Interpol is not actively searching for the defendant, and Interpol is not involved in the extradition procedure. Interpol just exchanges information between the police in the member countries.
The information that Interpol has issued a ‘red’ notice against Mr. Watson on the charges of Costa Rica only means that the police in the member countries shall be aware that Mr. Watson is wanted by Costa Rica. It is up to the police and the judicial authorities within the Interpol member countries whether or not they want to act on this local arrest warrant from Costa Rica.
Q.: What is the impact of the ‘Red Notice’ on Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (S.S.C.S.)?
A.: Because of the fact that these are individual cases and charges against Mr. Watson (in Costa Rica and in Japan) which are as stated probably politically motivated, there is no impact on the work of S.S.C.S. as an NGO itself; it is a general principle that criminal charges are against individuals, not against legal bodies.
Q.: Will Captain Watson be able to travel for the upcoming Antarctic and other campaigns?
A.: “I am convinced that Captain Paul Watson is able to continue his work, even with these bogus charges against him,” Wallasch said.
Statement by Sea Shepherd's Administrative Director
In speaking about Japan’s transparent attempts to thwart Sea Shepherd’s campaigns, Susan Hartland, Administrative Director of Sea Shepherd, had this to say: “The warrant and ‘blue’ notice generated is just another feeble attempt by Japan to try and keep us from our mission to protect, conserve and defend our oceans,” she said. “We operate within the legal confines of the United Nations World Charter for Nature. We are an enforcement entity acting legally against their relentless and archaic illegal whaling operations in a designated sanctuary and, as such, we will continue our direct action to protect the oceans and the wildlife in and around it. Our supporters expect no less and that is what we will continue to deliver. Our supporters stand by us and we stand by Captain Watson, all the other captains of our ships, and all of our courageous crew,” she said.
Hartland added: “Of course, we know that Japan would love nothing more than to have their own ‘red’ notice issued on Captain Watson. They tried for ‘red’ but Interpol recognized their attempts as politically motivated, so they were forced to settle for a ‘blue’ notice instead,” she said. “Colluding with Germany and Costa Rica, Japan tried to extradite him, they have brought suit against us in the US, they have harassed and arrested Sea Shepherd crew members, and charged them with benign or bogus offenses when they’ve had the chance,” she said.
“Nothing Japan does will stop us from returning to Antarctica this season with four vessels and four crews of committed and passionate volunteers to shut down the Japanese whaling fleet,” she added.
In 2010, when the initial ‘blue notice’ for Captain Watson was issued by Interpol, Captain Watson knew it was as a result of Japan wielding their political and financial might once again, just like they continue to buy off member nations of the IWC. At the time, Captain Watson had this to say: "Give me my name on a blue list, the red list, the black list, or the death list, for it is preferable to the I-don’t-give-a-crap list.”
The specific incident in question took place in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark-finning operation run by the Costa Rican vessel, the Varadero I. On order of Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero I to cease their shark-finning activities and head back to a Guatemalan port to be prosecuted. While escorting the Varadero I back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew. To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where the crew uncovered even more illegal shark-finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings.