|File picture of Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvatore Girone in Kochi
Rome/New Delhi, March 11 (PTI): Two Italian marines, facing trial in India for killing two fishermen and recently granted permission to go home, will not return to India, the Italian government said tonight.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year after mistaking them for pirates, were permitted by the Supreme Court to go to Italy for four weeks to vote in last month’s election. The last time they were allowed to go home during Christmas, they returned to India on the expiry of their leave.
However, the Italian foreign ministry accused the Indian authorities of violating international rights by detaining the marines and said it was “open” to let an international arbitrator assess the case, according to an official statement.
In New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs said it received a communication from Italy late tonight which it would “examine carefully”.
The Italian ambassador in New Delhi, Daniele Mancini, today delivered a “note verbale” to the external affairs ministry in this regard, the statement said.
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,” the Italian communication said.
The decision was taken in consultation with the ministry of defence and justice in coordiation with the Prime Minister’s Office, it said.
The statement said 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 two marines were on board the Italian vessel, Enrica Lexie, when they allegedly shot dead the two fishermen on February 15 last year.
On January 18 this year, the apex court turned down the Italian government’s plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and held that the two marines should be tried in Delhi by a special court.
It had said India was entitled under its domestic law and the public international law to exercise rights of sovereignty upto 24 nautical miles from the baseline on the basis of which the width of territorial waters is measured.
“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 apex court had also questioned the government last month on why it was “dragging its feet” on the issue of setting up the special court. The apex court also rapped the Centre for not following its January directive to consult the Chief Justice of India to set up the special court.