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Marines Case: India says Italy misrepresenting the UN Arbitral Tribunal Order


Article146.png"" alt=""Article146.png"" />The four-year-old Italian marines case has often threatened to derail India's relations with Italy as emotions have run high on both sides. In the latest development in the case, a UN Arbitral Tribunal has asked India and Italy to approach the Supreme Court of India for relaxation of the bail condition of Sergeant Girone, who was granted bail by the Apex Court and has been living in Italian Embassy in New Delhi. While Italy took it to be a ruling paving the way for the release of the marine, Indian government sources here said on Monday that Italy was misrepresenting the order which only stipulated that bail condition of the marine, living in Italian Embassy here on bail, to be set by the Supreme Court of India. Sources said the Tribunal order neither releases nor frees any marine but it only recommends further relaxation of bail conditions of one Italian Marine -- Salvatore Girone -- to be considered and decided upon by the Indian Supreme Court. Sergeant Girone is on bail on orders of the Supreme Court.

The Arbitral Tribunal’s order recognises that “Girone is under India’s authority alone” and that the “Supreme Court of India exercises jurisdiction” over him. The order asks India and Italy to approach the Supreme Court of India for relaxation of the bail conditions of Sergeant Girone. The Tribunal has suggested that these may include the conditions and guarantees binding upon Italy to ``ensure that Sergeant Girone reports to an authority in Italy designated by the Supreme Court of India in intervals to be determined by the Supreme Court of India; Sergeant Girone shall be required by Italy to surrender his passport and shall be prohibited from leaving Italy unless the Supreme Court of India grants him leave to travel; Italy shall on its own motion, apprise the Supreme Court of India of the situation of Sergeant Girone every three months.''

The Tribunal noted that Italy itself has accepted that if Girone is allowed by the Indian Supreme Court to return to Italy, “he will remain under the jurisdiction of the Courts of India”...“without prejudice to the authority of India’s courts”. The order also says that “India must be assured, unequivocally and with legally binding effect, that Sergeant Girone will return to India in case the Arbitral Tribunal finds that India has jurisdiction over him in respect of the Enrica Lexie incident”. Italy has already given multiple undertakings to this effect. The Tribunal affirmed that “these undertakings constitute an obligation binding upon Italy under international law”. The Tribunal also “confirms that Italy is under an obligation to return Sergeant Girone to India if the Arbitral Tribunal finds that India has jurisdiction over him in respect of the Enrica Lexie incident”.

Sources pointed out that the Tribunal is adjudicating only on the limited question of whether India or Italy has the jurisdiction to try the two Marines for the killing of two innocent Indian fishermen. Only after the Tribunal decides which country has jurisdiction, will the criminal trial commence. Pending this final decision of the Tribunal, both Italian Marines are currently on bail on orders of the Supreme Court of India and will continue to remain under its jurisdiction till the verdict of the Arbitral Tribunal. In 2012, India arrested two Italian marines after a pair of Kerala fishermen were shot dead. Italy has maintained that the marines, who were escorting an oil tanker, mistook the Kerala fishermen for pirates.

One of the marines Massimiliano Latorre was allowed to return to Italy with health problems, the other Sergeant Girone was asked to remain in India. Sources said that if bail conditions were to be relaxed, Indian government would insist it to be conditional upon Italy pledging to return Girone to India if needed for the trial. The Italian marines case hit headlines and soured India-Italy relations but the two countries agreed last year to take the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and abide by its decision. The Supreme Court has extended the home leave till September of the other marine Massimiliano Latorre. He was allowed to return to Italy in travel back to Italy in 2014 for medical treatment.

Even at home the main opposition party Congress has charged the BJP-led NDA government with striking a deal with the Italian government to allow the Italian marines go home in exchange for information on AgustaWestland bribery allegations. The marines case has also made Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi being regularly criticised by opposition leaders for failing to get both men home and resolve the case. While Italy claims that the oil tanker, the MV Enrica Lexie, was in international waters at the time of the incident, India has maintained that the firing by the two marines was a plain case of murder at sea in which one fisherman was shot in the head and the other in the stomach."

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