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The marines make the beautiful… A return to the country “on instruction”

(BRUSSELS2) The outcome is not very honorable for Italy. But Rome played the showdown with New Delhi. After the Christmas leave, the two Italian marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, involved in the death of two fishermen while guarding the Enrica Lexie, were entitled to a second leave from Indian justice , on February 22, to see their family again. A very discreet return to the country. And, for good reason... they shouldn't go back to India.

On "instruction" of the government.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi has, in fact, asked the Italian ambassador in New Delhi, Daniele Mancini, to give the Indian government a "verbal note" explaining this departure. A concerted position with the Ministers of Defense (Giampaolo di Paola *) and Justice and in close coordination with the Presidency of the Council (Prime Minister Mario Monti), specifies the press release from Farnesina (the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) .

A jurisdictional dispute

Terzi points out that " the Indian government violated international obligations imposed by customary law and treaty law, including the immunity from jurisdiction of state institutions and the rules of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) often referred to as the Montego Bay Convention. In the wake of the judgment of the Supreme Court (India) of January 18, Rome had proposed to New Delhi the " beginning of a bilateral dialogue in order to seek a diplomatic solution to the case ". " Given India's failure to respond to this request, " the Italian government considers that there is a dispute over the rules contained in the Convention and the general principles of international law applicable in this case ».

Request for international arbitration

Rome thus reiterates its willingness to reach an agreement on a settlement of the dispute by means of international arbitration or judicial settlement » and asks India « to activate the scheduled consultations » by the convention of Montego bay. But he also informs the Indian government that given the official existence of "an international dispute between the two states", the marines " will not return to India at the end of the authorization granted to them”.

Comments : the detention of the two marines caused grumbling "in the ranks" in Italy. And even if the media dimension of the question seemed less great than a few weeks ago, it remained a thorn in the side of the Monti government. The position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs reflects a constant line of defense in Rome (after a small fluctuation of the versions during the incident) which denies any competence to India to judge its soldiers. It is a fact that there is a dispute over the location of the incident: in international waters where the Enrica Lexie would have been or in territorial waters where the fishermen would have been (versions have varied on both sides) . And there is a difference of interpretation on the applicable law then. It is, in a certain way, by the "fault" of the commander of the ship who obeyed the orders of the Indian navy that the two marines were arrested, hence this legal imbroglio. By acting in this way, by forcing the law a little, Rome puts the problem back where it should be, from a legal point of view, even if this position is criticized by certain editorialists in the Italian press (notably Giampiero Gramaglia of Il Fatto Quotidiano who writes "Terzi tarnishes the image of Italy"). It can also be noted that this decision was taken in full interim of the current government.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) And not the Russa as mentioned by mistake (rush is the enemy of good 🙂

You can read about this case the main steps of the procedure:

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).