Updated: August 12, 2015 2:39:13 am
Asserting that it had criminal jurisdiction over the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala’s coast in 2012, India has told the international tribunal hearing the matter that Italy’s version in case was “misleading”.
“The story told by Italy is as short and straightforward as it is misleading,” India said in its written observations filed before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg. “The Italian story omits several crucial aspects which are the crux of the issue.”
It added that “Italy’s silence seriously distorts reality and does not permit the Tribunal to correctly understand the subject-matter of the dispute, which actually centres upon the murder by two Italian Marines embarked on the MV Enrica Lexie, of two Indian unarmed fishermen embarked on the Indian fishing vessel St. Antony, a fishing vessel properly registered in India and fully permitted to be fishing in India’s EEZ, which was also damaged by the use of automatic weapons by the two marines.”
Arguing against Italy’s stand that its two marines opened fire after they assessed that St Antony was on a collision course with MV Enrica Lexie “and that this modus operandi was consistent with a pirate attack”, India’s submission pointed out that the two marines used their automatic weapons without any warnings and that one fisherman was shot in the head and the other fatally shot in the stomach.
Italian marines Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone, who were on board MV Enrica Lexie, are accused of killing two Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012.
The tribunal was told that “Italy is cautious not to indicate at what precise point the shooting happened, but it accepts that, either before or after it happened, the Indian fishing vessel — which Italy defines a bit disdainfully as a ‘craft’ — eventually, after apparent attempts to approach the MV Enrica Lexie, the craft turned away and headed towards the open sea.”
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The observations further stated: “Contrary to the misleading name adopted by Italy to designate the present dispute, there was in reality no ‘incident of navigation’, nor any collision between the two ships. They had no physical contact and Article 97 of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) — which is vital for Italy’s case — is irrelevant by any means. If there was an ‘incident’, it concerned the St Antony and its crew, not the MV Enrica Lexie.”
India argued that the Italian authorities “have, in reality, not conducted any kind of serious investigation on the facts, thus showing how little they trust in their own thesis of their right — let alone exclusive right — to exercise criminal jurisdiction over the two persons accused of murders.”
Slamming Italy’s “misplaced calls for compassionate feelings”, India argued that Latorre — who is presently in Italy — was given permission to leave for Italy for a period of four months, renewed twice. It added that, at a hearing on July 13, the Supreme Court extended his leave to stay in Italy by six months, with the consent of the counsel representing the government.
Referring to Girone, India said, “Italy’s presentation of his ‘sufferings’ is outrageous. The word ‘detain’ systematically used to describe that he is kept in jail is misleading in that it could be understood that he is in jail — although he has been released from prison on June 2, 2012.”
While stating that describing Girone as a hostage was “highly inappropriate and offensive”, the observations pointed out that both Marines were twice allowed to travel to Italy at the same time.
“The restrictions to his freedom of movement are a very lenient treatment for an individual who, it cannot be contested, shot and killed unarmed fishermen,” India argued.
On Italy’s complaints that “for nearly three-and-a-half-years, the Marines have been subjected to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts and to bail restraints, although they have not been formally charged with any offence,” India contended that “Italian account of the facts overlook the crucial fact that the delays Italy complains of are due to Italy’s own delaying tactic.”
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