Indian Court Can't Try Italian Marines in 2012 Fishermen Killing Case as They Have Immunity, Rules Int'l Tribunal

Maha Siddiqui
·2-min read

In what is a setback to India in the 2012 Enrica Lexie case, the Arbitral Tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in its judgment has said that two Italian marines cannot be tried in an Indian court.

This has been decided based on the fact that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone enjoy immunity as marines are state officials. But the tribunal has upheld the conduct of Indian authorities with respect to the incident under the provisions of UNCLOS, said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.

India had maintained that the marines had flouted India's sovereignty by moving into Exclusive Economic Zone and killing two Indian fishermen. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava said, " It held that the actions of the Italian military officers and, consequently, Italy breached India’s freedom of navigation under UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) and 90."

India had maintained that the marines had flouted India's sovereign right by moving into Indian waters and killing two Indian fishermen. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, on Thursday said, "It held that the actions of the Italian military officers and, consequently, Italy breached India’s freedom of navigation under UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) and 90."

Srivastava also said the Tribunal had decided India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of St. Antony. The Tribunal rejected Italy’s claim to compensation for the detention of the marines.

Significantly, in 2012 the Italian side had stuck an agreement with the two fishermen's families for Rs 1 crore each as what they described "compensation". The court had expressed shock at some clauses of the agreement saying it amounted to "blood money". Appearing on behalf of the Italian side, Harish Salve has claimed it was not "blood money" but compensation to allow the two families to rebuild their lives.

There has been a pause in the case in the Supreme Court as Italy took the matter to the Arbitral Tribunal under UNCLOS questioning India's jurisdiction in the matter.

Meanwhile, the Tribunal took note of the commitment expressed by Italy to resume its criminal investigation into the events of February 15, 2012.

The Tribunal also held that the parties are invited to consult with each other with a view to reaching agreement on the amount of compensation due to India. The Tribunal also decided that it will retain jurisdiction should either party or both wish to apply for a ruling from the Arbitral Tribunal in respect of the quantification of compensation due to India.