San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson files human rights lawsuit against Costa Rica

Related: Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson turns to human rights commission to block Costa Rica’s legal chase

Celebrity conservationist Paul Watson turned the tables Tuesday in his long legal battle with Costa Rica by filing a lawsuit against the country before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

“We want to have this whole situation investigated,” Watson said in a phone interview with The Tico Times. “We think that it is a human rights violation and it has nothing to do with seeking justice at all. The whole thing is very suspicious.”

The charges against Watson date back to 2002, when he and a Sea Shepherd crew confronted a Costa Rican fishing vessel that was allegedly finning sharks off the Guatemalan coast. Watson and fellow conservationists sprayed the fishermen with firehoses.

After docking in Costa Rican fishing hub Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast, Watson was charged with eight counts of attempted murder. The incident was filmed as part of the documentary “Sharkwater,” and the footage, combined with witness accounts, led the court to drop the charges against Watson.

But the case didn’t go away. Watson was arrested in Germany in 2012 on a Costa Rican warrant for attempted shipwrecking, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Watson has avoided extradition and now lives openly in Paris, despite being listed on Interpol’s Red List of International Fugitives.

In an attempt to finally put the charges to bed, Watson’s lawyers are arguing that Costa Rica’s dogged pursuit of the conservationist is without merit and violates his human rights. Costa Rica’s foreign ministry told The Tico Times that they have not yet received notification of the petition from the IACHR and cannot comment on the allegations. The petition for a lawsuit, which has yet to be accepted by the human rights commission, alleges that the Costa Rican government filed charges against Watson without jurisdiction — the incident took place in international waters near Guatemala — and without proof. The lawyers concluded that the only explanation for the charges is that they were politically motivated.

“The legal actions that Costa Rica has taken against Paul Watson is a political maneuver to take down one of the world’s most recognized conservationists so that Costa Rica can continue freely trafficking shark fins,” Watson’s petition reads.

The practice of shark finning, where fishermen slice off a shark’s valuable fins and throw its body overboard, has been banned in Costa Rica since 2012, but Watson claims that the government still supports the practice behind closed doors.

“I know Costa Rica has this reputation as a green country but I haven’t seen it,” he said. “What I’ve seen is a lot of protection of poaching operations.”

See also: Shark fin scandal in Costa Rica has Solís administration on the defensive

Watson says he will not return to Costa Rica for trial because he’s concerned about the fairness of the country’s justice system. Even if Watson was found innocent, his lawyer has expressed concerns that Costa Rica would immediately extradite the conservationist to Japan, where he faces charges for Sea Shepherd’s war on the Japanese whaling fleet.

If Watson’s case before the regional human rights commission is accepted, the IACHR would investigate Costa Rica’s case against Watson and could order the country to drop the charges. If freed of legal troubles, Watson said he would be interested in returning to Costa Rica to do conservation work.

“Right now we have two boats that we could deploy to Cocos Island to protect it,” Watson said. “The government admits that they do not have the resources to protect Cocos Island, and we could provide that.”

Contact Lindsay Fendt at

Comments are closed.

Hachi Ko

Paul Watson is a terrorist who openly attacks other humans in international waters, acting as a self-appointed policeman. International waters or not, the involvement of Costa Rican citizens places the incident under the jurisdiction of the Costa Rican justice system.

I don’t blame Watson for being afraid to face justice in Costa Rica. If the facts are as stated, then he is guilty of reckless endangerment, at the very least.

Personally, I don’t care about his lawsuit, and I don’t care if ever faces justice in Costa Rica. My preference is that he will never, ever, be physically present in Costa Rica.

3 0
Dom Palmer

Mr Watson has in the past said he was afraid that if he went back to Costa Rica he would be killed and the Sea Shepherds have claimed that environmentalists in Costa Rica have been killed. But now he says if the charges are dropped he would like to travel to Costa Rica. So where his previous worries just lies?

And he also says that now he is worried that if he returned for trial that Costa Rica would extradite him to Japan. Well if the charges are dropped and he travels to Costa Rica to do conservation work, what would stop Costa Rica from arresting him on the Interpol Red Notice from Japan and extraditing him to Japan?

Either his previous concerns about being extradited to Japan or being killed are lies told for sympathy and to get donations. Or his claim to return for conservation work is BS. Or he has a mental defect. Or maybe a combination of all three possibilities.

3 0
Glen Folkard

Enjoy you time in gaol watson. Karma, and Interpol…are coming for you. Haha..

1 0
Freddy Pacheco León

¿A QUIÉNES LES ESTARÁ PAGANDO este fugitivo de las justicias alemana y costarricense… PARA QUE SIGAN PUBLICANDO ESTE REFRITO DE NOTICIA? Noticia sin sentido, pues ningún derecho se le está violando, sino que solo se quiere que “se arme de coraje”, deje el miedo a un lado, y se presente ante los tribunales a defenderse de la demanda que presentaron los humildes pescadores que el trató de hundir, allá en el mar lejos de la costa. Se le acusa de “intento de naufragio” y en sus mismas imágenes se observa como su buque de guerra golpea fuertemente la pequeña lanchita artesanal, con la intención de destrozarla. Lo cierto es que la mucha plata que está gastando en propaganda para no enfrentar la justicia (que incluye caros publirreportajes por televisión con entrevistas en París) sería mejor que la invirtiera en abogados defensores. ¡Claro, si no le diera miedo! Pero como es (según él y sus cancerberos) “tan valiente” ahora pretende derramar sus lágrimas en una Corte Interamericana que normalmente conoce de acusaciones por violación a los derechos humanos, y no de pendejadas de cualquier personaje ambientalisto.

1 0

Paul Watson is a relentless champion and protector of the animals of the sea. He uses extraordinary measures to save animals from slaughter because national governments either will not do it, or, as in the case of Japan, flagrantly and intentionally violate international law to kill whales.

Whatever the merits of the case of Costa Rica against Watson–and “causing a shipwreck” is certainly an exaggerated charge–the deeper issues are being missed. First, can someone finally convince older Asian males that shark fin soup will not make their penises hard! If there was no demand for the fins, the problem would dry up. Asians might have one less “delicacy” to eat, but sharks need the fins more than they do.

It would be one thing if the sharks were being used as food to feed starving millions, but they are simply thrown away, writhing in agony and dying. This is bad enough, but damage of another kind is being done to Costa Rica. This is a country that depends on the tourism derived from its green reputation. The hypocrisy of a country that makes claims about its nature-friendly practices cannot afford to allow the shark finning.

Oh, one more thing– the complex ecologies of seas of the world are in serious danger of ecological collapse due to global warming and human-caused trauma. An endangered shark population has enormous deleterious effects on the entire ocean ecology.

President Solís should ensure that the charges against Mr. Watson are dropped, that the hidden interests of the people pushing the case against Watson are made known publicly, and that Watson should be invited to Costa Rica as a hero and champion of the animals of the sea.

0 1
Hachi Ko

No one is supporting the finning of sharks. Yes, it’s true that many countries don’t do enough to discourage the practice. Every country is a hypocrite in one way or another — every country is guilty of “not doing enough” in one arena or another. That doesn’t give anyone the right to appoint himself as a policeman, becoming a vigilante and terrorist, which is exactly what Paul Watson has done. His modified skull-and-crossbones logo, proudly displayed in the image on this page, show that he knows exactly what he is… a Terrorist and a Pirate.

As painful as it may be to do so, it is necessary to use the proper methods to combat practices such as shark finning. You can’t just go buy a ship and start ramming into other boats and dousing them with fire-hoses. That’s Piracy and a violation of Admiralty (Maritime) law.

In reality there is no such thing as “International Law”, which is a question of Sovereignty. No country owns International Waters, but there are International agreements, which we call “Law”, that effectively enforce regulations by the use of Peer Pressure among the Sovereign States of the world. However, the fact is that no State can tell any other State what it can and cannot do in International Waters. All International “Law” is “Enforced” by mutual agreement, and literal force by the Sovereign States of the world.

Among those agreements are the right of a State to defend its citizens in International Waters and to prosecute alleged crimes against its citizens at sea. This also includes ships, boats, and other vessels which are in International Waters. If it is against the law to endanger a person in Costa Rica, to “bully” him, or assault him, that same law applies to a Costa Rican boat and Costa Rican citizens in International Waters. You have committed a crime which falls under the jurisdiction of the Costa Rican authorities, and they can try you for the crime and punish you for it. This type of jurisdiction is acknowledged by almost all Sovereign States. If you have seen the movie “Captain Phillips”, it accurately portrays this kind of jurisdiction. If the U.S. navy captures anyone in International Waters who is perpetrating a crime against a U.S. vessel or U.S. citizens, that person is under the jurisdiction of the USA, just as if he were standing on U.S. soil. It doesn’t matter if the pirate is a Somali. The Somalian government can’t help him if the U.S. Navy gets to him first.

There is also a clause of International Law known as “Universality”, which basically states that any Sovereign State has jurisdiction over anyone in International Waters who is acting in manner that endangers people or vessels in general. If any vessel witnesses your boat ramming another boat or shooting water from firehoses at fishermen in a small boat, the witnessing vessel has every right to sink your ship, if it has the capability to do so.

It’s only a matter of time before someone starts shooting back, with REAL guns, at Paul Watson and his team of terrorists, and such people will be guilty of no crime. They will simply be acting in self-defense and in accordance with “Universality Law.”

1 0

I would argue that the Sea Shepherds are asserting jurisdiction on behalf of the animals of the sea according to a truer, wider, and ultimately saner understanding of Universality–not only a restricted human, and specifically nationalistic pseudo-Universality. Paul Watson is guilty of no crime. He is shooting water and throwing stink bombs at people on ships who are killing animals who have no means to defend themselves. He is their shepherd guarding the flock against predatory wolves. The skull and crossbones shows that he is a freebooter with a Letter of Marque from the animals of the ocean who are unable to defend themselves. Remember Moby-Dick, who stove in and capsized the whaling ship, Essex? Was that a crime? Could Moby-Dick be arrested by Interpol and go to “gaol? It’s only a matter of time before the animals start ‘shooting back” with REAL ecological crises at the Japanese whale slaughterers and Costa Rican shark finners–crises such as the collapse of fisheries and oceanic habitats. Such animals will be guilty of no crimes. They will be calling in a higher Universality Law that recognizes who the real criminals are in this, the Anthropocene era of extinctions and ecocide.

As the planet slouches toward human-caused ecological suicide, we certainly do not want to violate any human-made legal principles! If whales sat on benches at the Hague, would the Japanese be as arrogant as they are? Probably not. Universality is a bitch.

0 1
Dom Palmer

So he has a ‘Letter of Marque’ does he? You realize that historically the targets of people with Letters of Marque fought back, right?

Throwing ‘stink bombs’? First are you OK if I throw glass bottles at you just because I don’t agree with your actions? Second since when is a hazardous chemical considered just a stink bomb?

Animals can’t commit crimes, so your question about Moby Dick is foolish, like most of what you have written.

0 0
Dom Palmer

He breaks the law and he lies.

So can you please cite just what international law the Japanese whalers are violating and why the whalers from Russia, the USA, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and St. Vincent & the Grenadines aren’t violating international law?

“Whatever the merits of the case…” So the ends justifies the means and if someone is doing what YOU think is right then breaking laws is OK?

“…Asian males that shark fin soup will not make their penises hard…” Oh, I didn’t realize you were a racist bigot. And stop spreading the lie that everything Asians may eat that upsets the Westerners is because of a belief in it being an aphrodisiac.

Costa Rica’s ‘hypocrisy’ goes back many decades and yet their tourism doesn’t seem to be negatively impacted, the number of tourists and the dollar value of tourism in Costa Rica has been steadily increasing since at least the 80’s.

0 0

You really dislike Paul Watson because he “breaks the law” when he tries to protect sharks in the pacific off the Costa Rica coast, and harass Japanese whale factory ships in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary—basically, the Antarctic region. “International law” is a fragile and sometime thing? Certain big powerful countries with worldwide armies and weapons break the law at will. So Paul Watson is in good company. Good thing the Sea Shepherds only use fire hoses, and not cruise missiles, or you would really be upset.

Japan lies when they say they are harvesting whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary for allowed scientific purposes as specified by the International Whaling Convention. They are not doing science at all, but canning the whale meat on the factory ship for commercial sale in Japan. Other whaling is allowed but only Japan goes after whales in a sanctuary under false pretenses.

You slam Paul Watson for allegedly breaking laws. Sometimes laws do need breaking. Remember the American Revolution? Strictly illegal. The so-called Founding Fathers were technically insurgents bent on the overthrow of a legally established British colony. The Stamp Act—legal, passed by Parliament, ratified by the King, printed in weighty tomes—as legal as it gets.

The Chinese cherish shark fin soup for imagined sexual potency, imagined health benefits, and for the prestige it confers on someone to serve and eat an expensive dish. Prestige, power, energy, health, sexual potency are all wrapped up together. It simply is not racism to state a commonly-known fact about Chinese cultural culinary practices. Pardon the fishy comparison, but yelling “racist bigot” is a red herring!

I also did not say that every Chinese culinary practice was related to aphrodisiacs. You made up that one.

0 0
Dom Palmer

No, I dislike Paul Watson because he is a liar, a blowhard and a coward.

Japan produces scientific papers based on their research and even the IWC Scientific Committe admits that the data they provide aids in teh management of whale stocks. Also the provisions of the IWC charter that ALLOWS research whaling, REQUIRES the whale to be processed as much as possible. So NOT selling the meat would be a violation of the IWC’s regulations.

The ‘whale sanctuary’ was established in violation of the IWC’s regulations, so really for all intents the sanctuary doesn’t exist. But even if it did, the IWC’s regulations allow for countries to object to new sanctuaries. Guess what? Japan objected to the sanctuary and thus they are not bound by it.

Yes, the Founding Fathers were insurgents. Hence why the British sent troops to deal with them. But in the end the insurgents won and became a recognized country. So get back to me when Paul Watson becomes a recognized country.

You made your claims about ‘Asians’ not ‘Chinese’ and you attributed the desire for shark fin soup to a desire to “make their penises hard”, which is not the reason. So sorry but even with you now editing your original claims, you still are a shining example of racism and bigotry.

“I also did not say that every Chinese culinary practice was related to aphrodisiacs. You made up that one.” Just following the example of your hero Paul Watson.

0 0
Hachi Ko

I am very sorry, Mr. Dom Palmer. I was on your side and agreed with you at first, but now, I must admit that I have Seen The Light! … Thanks to the glorious and enlightening words of Mr. Quilombo…

I too have witnessed the actions of the International Court of Aggrieved Animals of the World, and Cecil’s brother does quite an excellent job of describing a solution to all of our problems and leading us all into the new World Order… assisted by his most trusted advisers, Flipper the Dolphin, Gentle Ben the Bear, and that dog that played “Benji” in those movies.

Of Course! We don’t want children to be obedient or neat, or to display good manners! Silly!

I do have a couple of questions though…

Suppose that Paul Watson is vindicated and everybody agrees that what he is doing is correct and right. Wouldn’t Paul Watson then become the “Established Authority?” If someone becomes the accepted and approved “Administrator of Justice”, and therefore the “Established Authority”, isn’t it our duty to then rebel against him? Or are we only allowed to rebel against “Established Authorities” when someone perceives that the established authority is wrong?

“Norms” are defined by the majority of the individuals in a society. So… If, eventually, most people agree that Watson is acting in accordance with society’s wishes, doesn’t he then become the “Norm”? Or is “Norm” only a derogatory term that is used to represent the majority, when you don’t agree with that majority?

This concept is just not making any sense to me. According to Quilombo, if the majority think that something is correct, then we should rebel against it. Does that mean that the wishes and ideals of the majority are always wrong?

0 0

Mr Palmer and I do not agree at all. Since he stooped to name-calling, so shall I.

As my final exhibit before the International Court of Aggrieved Animals of the World, presided over by the brother of Cecil the Lion, I present a summary of the characteristics of the Right Wing Authoritarian personality type. Mr. Palmer, I submit, is an example of such a personality.

Right-wing Authoritarian Attitudes

Right-wing authoritarians want society and social interactions structured in ways that increase uniformity and minimize diversity. In order to achieve that, they tend to be in favor of social control, coercion, and the use of group authority to place constraints on the behaviors of people such as political dissidents and ethnic minorities. These constraints might include restrictions on immigration, limits on free speech and association and laws regulating moral behavior. It is the willingness to support or take action that leads to increased social uniformity that makes right-wing authoritarianism more than just a personal distaste for difference. Right-wing authoritarianism is characterized by obedience to authority, moral absolutism, racial and ethnic prejudice, and intolerance and punitiveness towards dissidents and deviants. In parenting, right-wing authoritarians value children’s obedience, neatness, and good manners.

Right-wing authoritarianism is defined by three attitudinal and behavioral clusters which correlate together:

Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.

Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.

Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms.

I will not bother the court with continuing any discussions with such a person, as it is a waste of my time.

0 0
Dom Palmer

But I also provide a reason behind the names. While you have merely responded by calling names. I realize when you have nothing concrete to support your position it is sad.

The facts are: the whale sanctuary is a nice fiction, research whaling is legal, selling the meat from research whaling is not only legal but required, and Paul Watson is an admitted liar and felon.

He should face up to the charges he faces. Then if he wins he will have the proof of his righteousness and if he loses society will have dealt with a criminal.

0 0
Hachi Ko

I also love one other thing about the image in this article…

Paul Watson with the ship behind him, emblazoned in huge, bold letters…

“Steve Irwin”… possibly the most stupid animal rights activist that has ever existed on Planet Earth.

Yeah… I’ve watched “The Crocodile Hunter”…

“Oh! Crikey! Look at this extremely poisonous snake! I should probably antagonize it just a little bit more! Look, kids! Don’t ever do what I’m doing right now with this poisonous snake, because what I’m doing is incredibly dangerous and stupid! OH! Look how angry it is!

OH! My child is perfectly safe, being held over this crocodile. But don’t you kids ever do this, because this is incredibly dangerous and stupid! Crikey!

Now… Watch closely as i swim, completely unprotected, with these incredibly dangerous stingrays. Now… don’t you kids ever do what I’m doing, which is incredibly stupid. Oh! Crikey! If one of these stingrays accidentally…”

And… Thus Ended Steve Irwin…

Please understand what I’m saying here…

Both Steve Irwin AND Paul Watson have/had their hearts in the right places. They are/were just incredibly stupid and incredibly arrogant.

0 0
Hachi Ko


The reality of the situation is that if someone is convinced that authority is bad, and that some vigilante/terrorist/self-appointed god/policeman is some kind of divinely-appointed defender of other animals and the Earth…

That person will never be swayed by my opinion, until the day that he dies. In his mind, Paul Watson will always be a Demi-God who, when he violates law, simply proves that that law is “Wrong.” He’s a saint who has never broken any law… Because, simply by breaking the law, he has proven that the law is beneath him and should never have been a law in the first place. ALL HAIL PAUL WATSON!

0 0