Italian Marine Case

Case involved killing of two Indian fishermen off Kochi in February 2012 by two Italian marines. Marines shot the fishermen considering them as pirates. The incident had also resulted in a long festering bilateral dispute that had soured relations between India and Italy since 2012.

Italy’s stand:
The Italian position is that the two marines positioned on board a merchant tanker had opened fire to thwart what they perceived as a pirate attack 20.5 nautical miles off Kochi.
  • It is further argued that the death of the two Indian fishermen occurred in the course of the discharge of their operational duties, and hence functional immunity could be invoked as related to the military personnel of any nation.
  • And that even if charges of death by accident were to be prosecuted against the marines, this would have to be done within the ambit of Italian law and jurisdiction as harmonised with the UN Law of the Sea [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)].
India’s stand:
India had ‘asserted’ its sovereignty and sought to claim its sole jurisdiction in prosecuting the marines in a special court.
United Nations Arbitration Tribunal’s latest verdict:
With the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) rejecting its plea, Italy had approached the UN tribunal to “take such measures as are necessary to relax the bail conditions on Italian marine in order to enable him to return to Italy, under the responsibility of the Italian authorities, pending the final determination of the Annex VII Tribunal.”
The tribunal has accepted the Italian plea and allowed the marine in India to return, but the wording is significant. It notes: “Italy and India shall cooperate, including in proceedings before the Supreme Court of India, to achieve a relaxation of the bail conditions of Sergeant Girone so as to give effect to the concept of considerations of humanity, so that Sergeant Girone, while remaining under the authority of the Supreme Court of India, may return to Italy during the present Annex VII arbitration.”
Differing interpretations:
India’s view: The Indian government has interpreted this decision as affirming the authority of the Supreme Court of India in the matter.
Italy’s view: Italy sees the tribunal’s order as a vindication of Italy’s position. It argues that the order had paved the way for Italian Marine to return home until the arbitration process is over.
It is solved now as SC allows Marine to go home with some conditions. Decision was taken on humanitarian grounds as International Tribunal verdict is likely to come only in 2018. This verdict will decide whether India has any jurisdiction over the marine or not.



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