Fishermen killings: Marines won't return to India to face murder trial, says Italy

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 11, 2013 18:15 hrs

Rome: Two Italian marines, facing trial in India for allegedly killing two fishermen and recently granted permission by the Supreme Court to go home to vote in general election will not return to India, Italian government said on Monday night.

Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year in an anti-piracy operation were permitted by the Apex Court to go to Italy for four weeks for voting in last month's election.

Last time they were allowed to go home for the Christmas holidays after which they returned back to India on the expiry of their leave.

However in a surprise development, the Italian Foreign Ministry accused Indian authorities of violating International rights by detaining the marines and said it was "open" to let an international arbitrator to assess the case, according to an official statement.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External affairs said that it has received a communication from Italy late on Monday night and it will "examine it carefully".

It did not, however say what the communication contained.

Daniele Mancini, on Monday delivered a 'note verbale' to the External Affairs Ministry in this regard, the statement said.

India did not respond to requests to seek diplomatic solution to case: Italy

India, it said, had not responded to Italian requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case and there was now a "dispute" between the two countries over the terms of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

"Italy has informed the Indian government that, given the formal initiation of an international dispute between the two states, the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will not return to India at the end of their home leave granted to them," it said.

The decision was taken in consultation with the Ministry of Defence and Justice in coordiation with the Prime Minister's Office, the statement said.
The statement said that India's decision to hold trial of the marines in that country violated their rights under International law. Italy has argued that the marines should be tried in their home country.

The Italian government said it was open to arriving at a resolution of the dispute through international arbitration or judicial settlement.

The Indian Supreme Court had on February 22 permitted the two marines to travel to their country to cast vote in the February 24 and 25 elections there.

The bench said that the marines are only allowed to travel to Italy and remain there and will have to return to India by the end of the four-week deadline.

The two marines were on board the Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie', when they had shot dead the two fishermen on February 15, last year.

On January 18, the Apex Court had turned down the Italian government's plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and had held that the two marines should be tried by the Centre by constituting a special court to conduct their trial.

"The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the Contiguous Zone, the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country," the bench had said.

The two sailors, who were part of an anti-piracy military security team, are accused of fatally shooting two Indian fishermen aboard a cargo ship whom they believed were pirates in February 2012.

Italy said in a statement on Monday that India's decision to try the pair there would violate their rights, in particular the principle of immunity for foreign state actors, and they would not go back.

The long fight over the marines' fate has strained ties between India and Italy, with Rome saying that they should be tried in an Italian court and that the shooting happened in international waters, which India disputes.

The Indian Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice. The decision removed the case from the jurisdiction of the southern state of Kerala, near where the shooting took place.

The Italian statement said Italy's ambassador in New Delhi has informed the Indian government of its decision.

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