THE ITALIAN marines — facing charges of killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012 — will not be tried in India, and face criminal proceedings in Italy, said the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Thursday.
The court, based in The Hague, further said New Delhi was entitled to compensation and asked India and Italy to consult on the amount of compensation due.
In a close 3:2 vote, the tribunal ruled that the Italian marines enjoyed diplomatic immunity as Italian state officials under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea. Taking note of the “commitment expressed by Italy” to resume its criminal investigation into the incident, the tribunal said India must cease to exercise its jurisdiction.
While Tribunal President Vladimir Golitsyn, judges Jin-Hyun Paik and Professor Francesco Francioni voted in favour of Italy, judges Patrick Robinson and Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao voted in favour of India.
Known as the Enrica Lexie incident, it took place in February 2012, when the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie, traveling off the coast of Kerala was approached by an Indian fishing vessel. Two Italian marines onboard fired what Italy contends were warning shots at the ship. Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Valentine, were killed.
India, however, says the vessel was fired at without notice.
Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone returned from India to Italy on September 13, 2014 and May 28, 2016, respectively.
Italy had approached the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, an arbitral tribunal under the International Court of Justice in 2015, and the matter was heard by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2019.
Disclosing the details of the verdict, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the court upheld the conduct of the Indian law enforcement authorities, and declared that Italy had breached freedom of navigation. He said the tribunal also rejected Italy’s claim for compensation for the detention of the marines.
“However, it found that the immunities enjoyed by the Marines as State officials operate as an exception to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts and, hence, preclude them to judge the Marines,” Srivastava said.
In a statement on Thursday, the Italian Foreign ministry said, “Italian Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Indian courts in relation to the acts occurred during the incident of 15 February 2012; India is therefore precluded from exercising its jurisdiction over the Marines. The Arbitral Tribunal has therefore agreed on the Italian position that the Marines, being members of the Italian armed forces in the official exercise of their duties, cannot be tried by Indian courts.”
Acknowledging the breach of freedom of navigation, it said, “As a result of the breach, India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the Indian fishing boat St. Anthony.”
“Italy stands ready to fulfill the decision taken by the Arbitral Tribunal, in a spirit of cooperation,” the Italian Foreign ministry said.
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