One of the two Italian Navy marines, being held in India after they were accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012 while on anti-piracy duty, was granted permission to return to Italy until the arbitration process, which began in June 2015, is concluded, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation cited a ruling from the Hague-based Court of Arbitration.
“The terms for the marine’s return will be subject to agreements between Italy and India,” the ministry said, adding that the government undertook to submit the entire issue to the International Court of Arbitration so that the marines could return home.
The Italian government said that it expects India to take a constructive attitude, also in the subsequent phases, including with regard to the jurisdiction of the dispute.
The ruling of the court in The Hague has taken into account the legal and humanitarian considerations related to Sergeant Salvatore Girone having spent over four years in India, which could have been extended for another two or three years, considering the time required for the arbitration procedure, according to the ministry.
“The Italian government will immediately begin negotiations with India in order to define and agree as soon as possible the conditions complying with the arbitration court’s ruling.”
The Italian government said that this ruling would not affect the continuation of the arbitration procedures, which are expected to define whether the jurisdiction over the Enrica Lexie dispute lies with India or Italy.
Girone, together with the Italian Navy marine Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre, who temporarily returned to Italy for medical treatment, were part of an Italian marine team hired to protect the Enrica Lexie from pirates.
On February 15, 2012, while the vessel was en route from Sri Lanka to Djibouti, it came across an Indian fishing vessel off the India’s state of Kerala, when the marines allegedly mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired at the vessel, killing the two men.
Following the incident, the Enrica Lexie was ordered to proceed to Kochi port, where the two marines were arrested.
Latorre and Girone challenged their arrest before the Kerala High Court, claiming that India had no jurisdiction over the case, as the incident happened in international waters.