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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Italy says killer Marines of Enrica Lexie will not return !!

It is no chaos theory, nor  the butterfly effect ~ nothing to do on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. General elections took place in Feb 2013 in Italy to determine the 630 members of the Chamber of deputies and the 315 elective members of the Senate of the Republic for the 17th Parliament of the Italian Republic.  According to results, the centre-left alliance Italy Common Good led by the Democratic Party obtained a clear majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, thanks to a majority bonus that has effectively trebled the number of seats assigned to the winning force ~ and it has its impact in India…. !!

For more than a year, the Afromax Enrica Lexie captured many headlines and hogged limelight.  It was much debated as to whether it was cold blooded murder by trigger happy Italian Marines or was it just the apprehensive action of Marines providing security against piracy threats.  There was debate on jurisdiction; after protracted struggle, the perpetrators of the crime,   Italian Marines identified as Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone were arrested and lodged in jail.  Some more drama unfolded with those accused protesting on the food and accommodation.  On the ill-fated day of 15th Feb 2012,  two fishermen, Gelastine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25), were brought to Neendakara harbour late on the night of 15 February and were taken to the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, for post mortem. Generally such deaths of fisherfolk would have appeared in an obscure column of newspaper and forgotten. This was not to be – as they had been shot dead  by Italian naval guards from aboard oil tanker Enrica Lexie, and has been in the news all through these months.  The incident sparked a major diplomatic row between Italy and India, with Indian police immediately opening a murder enquiry and later arresting two members of the Italian Navy security team over the shooting.  What was to be an issue of Admiralty Laws and Marine Statues, took many other turns and there were reports of religious heads and priests from Italy  arriving at Kollam to participate in the negotiations.

All that is history now….. the Marines were allowed to go back to Italy for celebrating Christmas, returned……. Again they were permitted to go for voting in the General elections… now it is reported that the Italian Govt has conveyed peremptorily to the Indian government that the two Italian Marines accused of killing of two fishermen from Kerala off the Indian coast last year would not return to face trial before the Supreme Court of India.  It is the decision of the newly elected Italian government.  Firstpost reports of the statement issued by the Italian Foreign Ministry noted on Monday that Rome had “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.”

It is now stated that the Italian government had requested the Indian government to find a diplomatic solution to the case, but that it had been spurned. It said it was dishonouring the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling in January – that India had jurisdiction to try the Marines – because, in its estimation, the shooting took place in international waters. It was therefore taking the dispute over jurisdiction to an international court or for arbitration, to secure an interpretation of a clause in the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

That is Italy’s rule of law…. Disobeying the Supreme Court of India’s order clandestinely… the Marines were only allowed to go and be back but the Govt now says that they will not come – atrocious…. Smacking arrogance damaging its international credibility, but……… this has happened earlier – be it Warren Anderson, Kim Davy, Ottavio Quattrocchi – all were able to escape thanks to some political support from this side.  It is not a legal solution, there has been pressure for a diplomatic solution to the killing and now one has been made.  The criminal case of killing was before the judiciary, the Govt was seemingly dragging its feet and as First Post points out three Ministries – Home Ministry, Law Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry – were citing legal minutiae to delay the implementation of the court order. Even as late as in the last week of February, more than a month after the Supreme Court ruling, the Law Ministry was preoccupied rather more with securing documents for the Marines to travel to Italy rather than with implementing the court ruling. Since any case is only as good as the prosecution, the suspicion that a backroom deal of sorts was being worked out with between the two governments ran high. Perhaps it has implications to the Agusta Westland helicopter deal as well.  

Clearly Italy has brazenly thrown a challenge ~ what will the Centre react ? – Why cannot there be a stern response including a diplomatic stand off as this undermines the legal jurisdiction of the country. India should declare that those Marines have escaped the law and the Govt abetting and protecting them be declared as enemies.  It was a brazen crime and Indian lives were lost….. just as Italy has protected its killer Marines, India should exhibit its moral responsibility to provide compensation for those killed cold-blooded in Indian waters.  The natural process would have been -  culpability established, guilt proven, verdicts given and appeals heard before civil damages are paid or criminal punishments meted out. So until the courts pronounce the verdict, the Italian marines are suspects now Italy has thrown all that out of gear and has challenged the judicial process.

International diplomacy is one; legal processes are other.  Italy has ridiculed the entire Nation and the geniality shown in allowing the Marines to travel back to their land for voting in the elections is now in hindsight is a stupid step, which India must regret.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Mar 2013.


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