08/10/2015, 00.00
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Italian marines’ case goes before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg

The tribunal is expected to rule before the end of August on who has jurisdiction over the case of the two Indian fishermen killed at sea. To back its claim, New Delhi has hired two major international lawyers. However, back at home, the whole affair has become “too much dramatics at tax payers’ expense”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is hearing a request from Italy to have India put on hold its claim against two Italian marines pending arbitration. The former have been accused of killing two Indian fishermen in the 2012. The second hearing is scheduled for tomorrow with a final ruling expected in two weeks.

Based in Hamburg (Germany), ITLOS is an intergovernmental organisation created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. Established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, the Tribunal has the power to settle disputes between party states.

If the court rules in favour of Italy, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre will stand trial in Italy for killing Jelastine and Ajesh Binki, two Catholic fishermen, when they were members of a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) on board Italian-flagged commercial oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie.

For Salvatore Girone this would mean returning to Italy. Massimiliano Latorre is already there on a health furlough (until January 2016).

For the families of the two victims, the case is closed; however, for India’s legal system, this is not the case. Initially, a court of Kerala was charged with the case, but in January 2013, the Supreme Court of India took over in order to determine who, India or Italy, had jurisdiction over the murder case.

Since then India’s highest court has repeatedly postponed a decision, partly because Indian authorities tried to have the country’s anti-terrorism agency investigate the case, a move later overturned by the Supreme Court itself.

Faced with postponements, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought international arbitration on 26 June. On 13 July, the Supreme Court of India gave the Indian government a green light to go to arbitration, since the country is signatory to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On 21 July, Italy turned to the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to protect its marines ahead of the hearing before the International Court of Justice in The Hague (Netherlands), the only international body that can overturn a ruling by ITLOS

The Court in Hamburg is expected to issue its ruling by the end of August, whilst the court in Hague could take a few years.

Two non-Indian lawyers, both experts in international arbitration, will represent India. Alain Pellet is a French expert in international law and a former president of the UN International Law Commission, whilst Rodman Bundy has 30 years of experience as counsel and advocate in many public international law litigation cases.

Officials from India’s External and Home Affairs Ministries will join them, including Additional Solicitor General PL Narasimha.

Meanwhile, in India, the case has fallen off the media radar. The court case in Hamburg is no longer major news among Indians. Responding to an article on the First Post online, one reader wrote, “It's simply [a] waste of time and money. Even if they are tried in India, they will not get Death Penalties [sic]”. Someone responded to this post, saying, “spot on! Too much dramatics at tax payers’ expense.”

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See also
ITLOS: Italy and India to suspend all legal proceedings, two Italian marines to stay in India
White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
24/01/2017 15:55
Kerala, two marines sent straight to jail
Indian Supreme Court says Massimiliano Latorre can stay in Italy until the end of arbitration
28/09/2016 17:18
Widow of Indian fisherman: Let Italian marines return home
03/05/2016 12:28


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