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An Italian job of backsliding

 MPost |  2013-03-14 23:30:01.0  |  New Delhi

It is shocking that Italy has decided not to return its two marines to India where they were being tried for killing two Indian fishermen. The two marines were being tried for murder but were sent back to Italy to vote in the European country’s general election and to meet their families on trust and on humanitarian grounds just as they had been for Christmas. They were sent back to Italy on the clear understanding that they would be returned by that country to continue to stand trial. The Italian government had given strong assurances that the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, would remain available to answer charges before Indian courts. It had, in this manner, accepted the jurisdiction of the Indian courts. To have changed its mind now is in complete breach of the diplomatic understanding between the two countries, amounts to a violation of the sacred trust between sovereign nations. The Italian government, by its decision to keep back the marines, has shown utter contempt for Indian law. If it had felt that there were points in law in favour of the marines, it could have agitated these before the Supreme Court of India. Instead, its ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini, chose to give an undertaking to this court that the duo would be returned by 24 March, a promise on which it has reneged, pushing Indian government to considering the possible expulsion of the envoy.


Italy should not take refuge in the technicalities of a fuzzy international law in declining to send back the marines. Its argument that the incident of shooting dead the two Indian fishermen after mistaking them for pirates off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012 occurred in international waters does not hold any ground. On the contrary, India contends the shooting occurred in its own territorial waters. This is a point of dispute that Italy should have consented to have been settled by the Indian courts. It is not that the Indian courts lack competence. They have been acknowledged the world over for their fairness and ability. Italy should also not have made the two marines an issue in its general elections. Besides, with the two fishermen being unarmed, their shooting constitutes a human rights violation as well, adding to the complexity of the case. The decision to sent bank the marines was one arrived by the Supreme Court of India with the government backing it. The Indian government should explain to the people of India how it allowed the sending back of the two marines to Italy, when it will not make similar concessions for its own citizens. It had simply no business to have been so lax. It must now explore all avenues available to retrieve the two marines so that they can stand trial in India.

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