Updated: July 2, 2020 9:48:17 pm
An international tribunal has ruled that India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with a case dating back to 2012 in which two Indian fishermen were killed by two Italian marines, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday. It also stated that the tribunal held that the actions of the Italian military officers and, consequently, Italy breached India’s freedom of navigation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
India accused the Italian marines—Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone—on board the MV Enrica Lexie, an Italian flagged oil tanker, of shooting dead two Indian fishermen at sea, approximately 20.5 nautical miles off Kerala in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone on February 15, 2012. Italy, however, claimed that as the Indian vessel—St. Antony— drew close, the marines assessed that it “was on a collision course with the MV Enrica Lexie and that this modus operandi was consistent with a pirate attack”.
“The Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS on 26 June 2015 decided that 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 ‘St. Antony’,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
Srivastava further said the tribunal rejected Italy’s claim to compensation for the detention of the marines. “However, it found immunities enjoyed by marines as state officials operate as an exception to jurisdiction of Indian courts and, hence, preclude them to judge the marines,” he added.
“The Arbitral Tribunal upheld conduct of Indian authorities w/respect to incident under the provisions of the UNCLOS. It held that actions of Italian military officers &, consequently, Italy breached India’s freedom of navigation under UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) & 90,” the MEA spokesperson said.
Srivastava further said the tribunal observed that India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction over the incident and a valid legal basis to institute criminal proceedings against the marines.
“The tribunal took note of the commitment expressed by Italy to resume its criminal investigation into the events of 15 February 2012,” he said. The tribunal held that the parties are invited to consult with each other with a view to reaching agreement on the amount of compensation due to India, the MEA spokesperson added.
The core legal dispute stemmed from India exercising criminal jurisdiction over the two Italians by filing a murder case and arresting them. Italy claimed that the marines had been hired to protect the tanker from pirates, and they were only doing their job.
They approached the Supreme Court, asking that all proceedings against them be declared violative of the principle of sovereign immunity and hence, illegal. The marines asked the court to hand them over to Italian authorities; a tribunal in Rome had, by then, begun criminal proceedings against them under Italian law.
On February 22, 2013, the Supreme Court allowed Latorre and Girone to visit Italy to vote in the February 24-25 elections. On March 11, however, Italy refused to send them back, triggering a crisis.
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