Marines case: India cautions tribunal against trusting Italy

Hamburg: India has cautioned an international tribunal here to be careful about trusting Italy, which took the case of
two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala’s coast, to it saying Rome has a record of defaulting on its “sovereign word”.

In its submission before the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS) here, India said it has legitimate apprehensions on Italy’s ability to fulfil its promises as it has earlier attempted to renege twice on the same.

Italy has repeatedly failed to keep its “sovereign word, the word of a sovereign state,” it said.

The first time, Italy attempted to renege on the assurance it had provided to the Supreme Court and officially informed India that marines who were allowed to go back to Italy for four weeks to exercise their voting rights would not return.

“As indicated, they did return, but only after intense diplomatic efforts pursued by the Government of India,” India’s representative submitted before the tribunal which concluded its two-day hearing yesterday.

India said it is even an “abuse of process” for Italy to have started international arbitral proceedings without exhausting Indian domestic remedies and that the country has projected the case in a false light.

“If the result is that the domestic remedies have not been exhausted, they have only themselves to blame. Italy chose to seize Indian courts and now turns away from them and seeks to remove the case to the international level, even though there is no new element,” India’s representative said.

India also said that it has jurisdiction to prosecute the two marines as they killed two innocent and unarmed Indian fishermen off India’s coast in its exclusive economic zone. That is the key fact, constantly ignored by Italy.

On its part, Italy said there was no scope for the Indian government to engage in further discussions about a “political settlement” after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that Italy should join in the judicial process as the matter is sub judice.

“Some days after this statement, Italy was informed on the private channel of engagement between the senior Prime Ministerial advisers that the statement by Minister Swaraj reflected the position of the Government,” Italy told the tribunal.

India also blamed Italy that its arguments were based on a highly selective and misleading account of what has actually happened before the Indian courts and in connection with the investigation of the incident.

India has sought rejection of Italy’s plea for handing over of two of its marines, saying India has full jurisdiction in the case and Italy’s contentions in this regard were “misleading”.

Italy, in its submissions, requested the tribunal to

prescribe that, “India shall refrain from taking or enforcing any judicial or administrative measures against Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone in connection with the Enrica Lexie incident.”

It also asked the tribunal to prescribe that, “India shall take all measures necessary to ensure that restrictions on the liberty, security and movement of the marines be immediately lifted to enable Sergeant Girone to travel to and remain in Italy and Sergeant Latorre to remain in Italy throughout the duration of the proceedings.”

India was represented in the tribunal by Neeru Chadha, Legal Advisor, Ministry of External Affairs, as Agent, two lawyers Alain Pellet and Rodman Bundy and P S Narasimha, Additional Solicitor General.

Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were on board ship ‘Enrica Lexie’, are accused of killing two Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012.

ITLOS is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.

The tribunal comprises 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognised competence in the field of the law of the sea.

Earlier, during hearing in the Supreme Court on July 13, Italy had made a plea saying it has invoked international arbitration challenging India’s jurisdiction to try two of its marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala three years ago.