India entitled to compensation, but can’t prosecute Italian marines:UN Court
External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly media briefing: “India has taken note of the [tribunal’s] award and will be in touch with relevant entities on the matter.”Updated: Jul 02, 2020 20:45 IST
A UN court ruled on Thursday that India is entitled to compensation in connection with the 2012 killing of two crew members of a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala by Italian marines guarding an oil tanker, an incident that had taken bilateral ties to an all-time low.
The five-member arbitral tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), however, decided by three votes to two that the marines are entitled to immunity in relation to their acts during the incident and that “India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction” over them.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly media briefing: “India has taken note of the [tribunal’s] award and will be in touch with relevant entities on the matter.”
The tribunal began hearing the case after Italy contended in December 2015 that India had violated the rights and immunity of the marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone – by detaining them. Italy also argued that India had violated its exclusive right to institute penal proceedings against the marines under UNCLOS.
The two marines, accused of killing fishermen Ajesh Binki and Valentine Jalastine, crew members of the fishing boat St Anthony, were granted conditional bail by India’s Supreme Court and allowed to return to Italy in 2014 and 2016.
The tribunal upheld the conduct of Indian authorities during the incident under the provisions of UNCLOS and held that the actions of the Italian marines breached India’s freedom of navigation under the convention.
The tribunal unanimously ruled that 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 the ‘St. Antony’, which by its nature cannot be made good through restitution”.
It said the two sides should hold consultations to reach agreement on the amount of compensation. It added the tribunal would retain jurisdiction if either side or both sides wished to apply for a ruling from the court regarding the quantum of compensation. However, if no application is received within a year after the date of the ruling, the proceedings will be closed.
The tribunal unanimously ruled set aside Italy’s contention that India had breached provisions of UNCLOS, but decided by three votes to two that the Italian marines were “entitled to immunity in relation to the acts that they committed during the incident of 15 February 2012, and that India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction” over them.
The tribunal also decided by three votes to two that India must take “necessary steps to cease to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over the Marines” in view of Italy’s commitment to “resume its criminal investigation into the events of 15 February 2012”.
Italy’s foreign ministry contended in a statement the tribunal had agreed on its position that the marines, being members of the Italian armed forces engaged in the official exercise of their duties, “cannot be tried by Indian courts”. It also said Rome’s public prosecutor had already opened an investigation into the incident.
“The ministry wishes to emphasise that the award of the tribunal does not make any determination of criminal responsibility in connection with the incident, which it will now be for the Italian judicial authorities alone to ascertain,” it added.
The tribunal rejected Italy’s claim for compensation for the detention of the marines , who were part of an anti-piracy deployment on board the Italian tanker.
The row over the killing of the fishermen had disrupted bilateral ties for several years, though people familiar with developments said the two sides have now decided to move on from the incident in view of their growing convergence on both bilateral and multilateral issues.