2012 naval dispute: UN court rejects Italy’s compensation claim

New Delhi: A UN court held Italy guilty of breaching India’s freedom of navigation in the 2012 naval dispute between the two countries and rejected Italy’s claim of compensation from India.

However, the Court also ruled that the marines have immunity and cannot be tried in India.

On February 15, 2012, two Indian fishermen aboard the Indian fishing vessel, St. Antony, were allegedly killed by two Italian marines aboard the Italian tanker ‘Enrica Lexie’ off the coast of Kerala.

The Indian Navy intercepted the Italian tanker and detained the two marines, triggering an international conflict over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity.

The marines were granted conditional bail by India’s Supreme Court and allowed to return to Italy in 2014 and 2016.

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.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, the government said that the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2015 on the request of Italy in respect of the 2012 dispute upheld the conduct of the Indian authorities.

The court “held that the actions of the Italian military officers and, consequently, Italy breached India’s freedom of navigation under UNCLOS Articles 87(1)(a) and 90.”

The Tribunal observed that India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction over the incident and a valid legal basis to institute criminal proceedings against the marines, the statement said. The court also rejected Italy’s claim of compensation for the detention of the marines.

“However, it found that the immunities enjoyed by the marines as state officials operate as an exception to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts and, hence, preclude them to judge the marines,” the Tribunal said.

The UN court took note of the commitment expressed by Italy to resume its criminal investigation into the events that led to the killing of two Indian fishermen.

Reacting to the verdict, the government in New Delhi said that it “has taken note of the award and will be in touch with relevant entities on the matter”.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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