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SC allows Italian marine to go home

The Supreme Court allowed Salvatore Girone, one of the two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off Kerala, to return to Italy after the Centre also endorsed the apex court’s condition that the Italian Ambassador should give an undertaking to the court that he would return to face the criminal trial in future.

The decision came after Mr. Girone had sought the court’s leeway to go back to his country till an International Arbitration Tribunal decides a jurisdictional dispute between India and Italy on where the duo should be tried.

This was the exact condition on which Mr. Girone’s compatriot and co-accused in the case, Massimiliano Latorre, was allowed to leave for Italy in September 2014 to recuperate from a brain stroke he suffered while in custody in India. Mr. Latorre has enjoyed periodic extensions from the Supreme Court for his stay in Italy, however SC has fixed September 30 of 2016 as the last day for his leave.

Recently, Italy has requested the Supreme Court to urgently enforce a United Nations arbitration tribunal’s decision enabling him to quickly return from India.

Timeline

  • Salvatore Girone & Massimiliano Latorre, the two Italian marines — on board ship ’Enrica Lexie’ — killed the two fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012.
  • Enrica Lexiewas intercepted in the Lakshadweep archipelago and compelled to proceed to Kochi port by the Indian Coast Guard.
  • Based on the postmortem carried out on 16 February 2012, Kerala Police charged the two marines with murder
  • On 4 April 2013, the Indian NIA filed a FIR against the two Italian marines in relation to charges including murder, attempted murder, mischief, conspiracy
  • In January 2014, India decided to prosecute the Italian marines under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA). The SUA Convention was passed in 1988 with the goal of suppressing international terrorism
  • Italy criticised the prosecution pursuant to the SUA Convention as equating the incident to an act of terrorism.
  • On 7 March 2014, India dropped the SUA charges against the marines and the charges were downgraded from murder to violence meaning the marines would not face the death penalty if convicted
  • On 21 July 2015 the Italian Government sought provisional measures before International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea(ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany.
  • On 24 August 2015 ITLOS by a majority opinion of 15:6 issued provisional measures in the case and ordered that“Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings and refrain from initiating new ones which might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted to the Annex VII arbitral tribunal or might jeopardise or prejudice the carrying out of any decision which the arbitral tribunal may render. The provisional ruling also demanded that India and Italy each submit to ITLOS by 24 September 2015 their respective Initial Report on the incident. ITLOS rejected Italy’s request that India provisionally release two marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, “because that touches upon issues related to the merits of the case”. The ITLOS decision meant neither side got precisely what it wanted. In particular, UNCLOS swayed somewhat from the more interventionist approach taken in when the Tribunal ordered a state to return a person subject to Annex 7 proceedings.

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

ITLOS is an intergovernmental organization created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. It was established by the UNCLOS, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on December 10, 1982. The Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and established an international framework for law over “all ocean space, its uses and resources”. The tribunal is based in Hamburg, Germany.

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