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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Enrica Lexie, Italian Marines ~ and prisoners in Italy jail

You cannot complicate things further ~ Enrica Lexie is an oil tanker registered in Italy…  the shooting of innocent Indian fishermen took place nearer Kochi ~ those who were killed -  Ajesh Binki and Valentine aka Gelastine,  are natives of Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively; those arrested for the killing are the Italian marines of the Reggimento San Marco, Marina Militare.

Now for a second keep away from legal wrangles, the jurisdiction, territorial waters, immunity, admiralty law, Vienna convention and more………. the  two marines had been arrested and case was before the Supreme Court of  India; they were allowed to go back to Italy for Christmas, they returned; then again they sought to be there for voting in Indian elections ~ the Italian envoy gave a guarantee and now simply the Italian Govt has reneged that.  Now the claim that India has no jurisdiction is simply deceit…… the Italian Govt was represented before the Apex Court, pleaded for the sending of Marines for a specific purpose, guaranteed their return and why not take action against the one who gave the guarantee, irrespective of his post and whether at all he enjoys any immunity.  Defiance and arrogance  are the themes of the  not-so diplomatic note on the Mancini row, sent from Italy to the Europe West Division of the Ministry of External Affairs on March 15. The official communication warns India that any restriction on the freedom of movement of Daniele Mancini, the Italian envoy, including any limitation of his right to leave Indian territory, will be contrary to international obligations.

There are reports stating that in the Court, Justice Kabir distinguished between the individual and the ambassador. The bench pointed out that Daniele Mancini had filed an affidavit taking responsibility for the return of the marines if they were allowed to go back to their country to participate in elections and sought to know if he stood by his undertaking. The court, thereafter, extended its March 14 interim order restraining Mancini from leaving the country. 

Meanwhile, Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy filed a petition seeking initiation of proceedings for contempt against Mancini and the marines. The government has not sought initiation of contempt; it has only brought the proposed defiance to the notice of the court.

In this background, Italy has accused India of violating international law on diplomatic immunity by preventing its ambassador from leaving the country. Italy's foreign ministry said this was an "evident violation" of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Just for argument sake, think of what would have happened, if an Indian were to be accused of killing a foreigner – be it on land or territorial waters or elsewhere….. and what action is taken against those Lankan Navy which often kills fishermen of Tamilnadu and scores of fishermen languishing in Pak jails.  For long I thought that there would be border disputes and unfortunately India does not have friendly neighbours ~ Pakistan continuously pokes at India, arrests people and harasses them ~ Sri Lanka also does the same……

but this article of Times of India is totally something I never imagined…. ‘109 Indian prisoners languish in Italy jails’. India and Italy are not neighbours and even by air they are more than 5000 kilometers apart !!!  It appears that while  Italy may have left no stone unturned to protect its marines, accused of killing two fishermen in Kerala, India seemingly has done little to figure out the fate that awaits 109 of its citizens locked up in Italy’s jails.

The TOI  report points out that during a question put out in the Parliament, the government had responded saying that Italy maintains high levels of privacy about their prisoners and hence the government has no information about them. However, a Sikh leader in Milan told the TOI that sources say that the majority of Indian prisoners in Italy are agriculture labourers who had been detained for illegal entry, violence, theft or murder.  It is ironic as it is, 109 Indian prisoners are reportedly languishing in Italian jails. The country's record at helping its citizens who run into trouble abroad is, in any case, nothing to be proud of. Surprisingly, though, in the context of the Indians in Italian jails, the government seems to be completely clueless and is not even aware of the reasons behind their detention.

The explanation given by the government, in response to a question put up in the Rajya Sabha in February 2010, was that the Italian government maintains privacy about prisoners and has not informed New Delhi despite having been requested. The status quo seems to have been maintained as the number of prisoners lodged in Italy have remained the same as per data provided by external affairs minister Salman Khursheed in the Rajya Sabha in November last year. Which means that either no Indian has been released from Italian jails in the past two years or the government has simply not followed up on the cases after Italy refused to share information.

"It's surprising the way our government plays its hand. It was evident in the way it allowed itself to be taken in by the Italians in the marines case and now it seems to have given up on its own citizens too because the Italians refuse to share information," says Delhi-based lawyer Avi Singh. "The least it can do is to have the Indian embassy in Italy find out details and pursue the cases."

Sad that we consistently allow criminals to fly out of the net and do not care for our citizens

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th Mar 2013.


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