NEW DELHI: Not keen to let off the Italian marines, the government has recently informed the the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that “India has jurisdiction over the Italian marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone who had committed murder aboard the Indian fishing vessel St Antony at Kollam, Kerala, within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India”.
According to top government sources, a detailed counter-memorial in response to Italy’s memorial filed on September 30, 2016 has been filed before the arbitral tribunal constituted under Annexure VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Sources said that India’s counter-memorial to Italy’s memorial before the international tribunal is ‘crucial’ as it will form the basis of India’s stand on ‘jurisdiction’.
The government has stated in its counter-claim that two Italian marines – Sergeant Latorre and Sergeant Girone – who were on board Italian ship MV Enrica Lexie, fired through automatic weapons on the Indian fishing vessel killing two fishermen, and caused damage to the boat “endangering the life of nine other fishermen and safe navigation of the fishing vessel on February 12, 2012”.
A senior government official said that “stand taken by us is consistent” that “Italian marines can only be tried by India”.
Italy has, however, claimed that the Indian vessel was on a collision course, as assessed by the marines, with the MV Enrica Lexie and that this modus operandi was consistent with a pirate attack. It has stated before the international tribunal that marines had been hired to protect the tanker from pirates, and they were only doing their job, arguing that they enjoyed sovereign functional immunity in India, and Italy alone had jurisdiction to deal with them.
Both, Latorre and Girone, are presently staying in Italy, till the Arbitration Tribunal decides the case.
According to the procedural calendar for the submission of written pleadings at The Hague, both sides are expected to file counter-replies on ‘jurisdiction’ till February and then the international arbitration court is expected to pronounce its decision by second quarter of 2018.
“We have a strong legal case in hand. Subsequently, we have been sympathetic to the Italian marines. The Supreme Court allowed the marines to travel back home on ‘humanitarian grounds’ till the matter is resolved by PCA and we have provided relief in several bail conditions despite the fact the charge against them is of serious nature, while Italy has been misleading the Supreme Court here and the international community,” said a senior government official.
Italy had initiated international proceedings against India on June 26, 2015 before an arbitral tribunal to be constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS.