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Italian marines row deepens

Envoy summoned as men fail to return for murder trial

Swati Deb, New Delhi

March 13, 2013

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India summoned the Italian ambassador on Tuesday to protest in the strongest terms against Rome's decision not to send back two marines accused of murder.

India’s Supreme Court last month allowed Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to return home to vote in their country’s general elections.

They are accused of shooting and killing two Indian fishermen they allegedly mistook for pirates while guarding the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie in February last year off the coast of Kerala, southern India.

But on March 11, Italy informed India that "since a controversy between the two states has been established” the two Italian Marines “will not return to India on the expiration of the permission granted to them," according to a press statement.

In a meeting with Ambassador Daniele Mancini, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that India was following an undertaking by its Supreme Court which allowed the two marines to travel to Italy for four weeks and return under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic. 

“It was conveyed to the Italian ambassador that the Italian government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court Order,” said a press statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

In response, Italy has stated that it wants the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas of 1992 and the general principles of international law applied to the Enrica Lexie incident.  

Italy has also claimed that India had “not responded” to its requests for a diplomatic solution to the case.

India’s Supreme Court in January said that India had jurisdiction to try the marines but Italy has challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in international waters.

"Italy has consistently considered the conduct of Indian authorities a violation of the obligations imposed by international law," Italian foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, reportedly said in Rome this week.

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