India arrested in 2012 two Italian marines on suspicion they killed two fishermen that they had mistaken for pirates while they had been escorting an oil tanker.
ITALY’S Foreign Ministry claimed on Monday that the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague had “paved the way” for Italian Marine Salvatore Girone, held in India on murder charges, to return home until the arbitration process is over.
The statement was based on an Italian wire service report that the UN tribunal has ruled in favour of Girone. However, government sources in India said the tribunal’s order “neither releases nor frees any marine”.
“It only recommends further relaxation of bail conditions of Girone, to be considered and decided by the Supreme Court of India,” said sources.
In a statement, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the government is “studying the order” and would approach the Supreme Court “for its directions on this matter”.
“We believe the government’s consistent positions and key arguments in this particular case have been recognised by the tribunal. The authority of the Supreme Court has been upheld. We remain confident that the issue of jurisdiction will be determined in our favour,” said Swarup.
The tribunal is adjudicating on whether India or Italy has the jurisdiction to try the two Marines — Sgt Massimiliano Latorre and Sgt Girone — who were arrested in India for the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012. The tribunal heard arguments from both countries in March.
Girone, who is out on bail on orders of the Supreme Court, has been living in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi, while Latorre was allowed to travel to Italy last year after being diagnosed with a medical condition. Both were on security duty on the Italian commercial vessel Enrica Lexie at the time of the incident.
Swarup said, “In its order today, the Arbitral Tribunal unanimously prescribed that India and Italy would approach the Supreme Court of India for relaxation of bail conditions of Sgt Girone. While remaining under the authority of the Supreme Court, he may return to Italy for the duration of the present arbitration. The tribunal confirmed Italy’s obligation to return him to India in case it was found that India had jurisdiction over him in respect of the incident.”
The MEA spokesperson said, “The tribunal left it to the Supreme Court to fix the precise conditions of Sgt Girone’s bail. This could include him reporting to an authority in Italy designated by our Supreme Court, surrendering his passport to Italian authorities and not leaving Italy without the permission of our Supreme Court. Italy shall apprise our Supreme Court of his situation every three months.”
The spokesperson said that the “tribunal placed on record undertakings given by Italy in regard to Sgt Girone’s return to India”. “It noted that these undertakings constitute an obligation binding upon Italy under international law. It has also confirmed that Italy is under an obligation to return Sgt Girone to India if the tribunal finds that India has jurisdiction over him,” said Swarup.
“The tribunal considers that provisional measures should not alter the situation where the Supreme Court of India exercises jurisdiction over Sgt Girone. It has also noted that while Sgt Girone may return to Italy during the present arbitration, during all this period, he would remain under the authority of the Supreme Court,” he added.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Italian Foreign Ministry said, “With reference to what has been reported by the news agency ANSA, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announces that the Court of Arbitration based in The Hague anticipated its decision on Monday that the Italian Navy marine, Salvatore Girone, will return to Italy until the arbitration process, that began in June 2015, is concluded. The terms for the marine’s return will be subject to agreements between Italy and India.”
It added: “The Italian government expects India to take a constructive attitude, also in the subsequent phases, including with regard to the jurisdiction of the dispute.”
It said that the “Italian government will begin negotiations with India to define and agree as soon as possible on the conditions to comply with the arbitration court’s ruling”.
ANSA quoted Italian Premier Matteo Renzi as saying that he was sending a message of “friendship and cooperation to the great people of India and to the Indian prime minister” after receiving news that Girone is to return to Italy. “We are always ready to cooperate,” ANSA quoted Renzi as saying in Florence.