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Foreign lawyers, ASG lose initiative in India's sea tribunal case against Italian marines who killed fishermen

Water world
Water world

A UN tribunal on Monday asked India and Italy to "suspend" ongoing court proceedings in the Italian marines case and not initiate new ones that could "aggravate" the dispute. India said it will abide by the tribunal's decisions.

The 21-member International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), based in German port town of Hamburg, ruled that it would not take action over the 2012 killing of two Indian fishermen - an incident that sparked a diplomatic dispute between Italy and India.

  • [https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/cases/case_no.24_prov_meas/C24_Order_24.08.2015_orig_Eng.pdf Read Order]
  • [https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/press_releases_english/PR_237_EN.pdf Read full ITLOS press release]

India was represented by international law professor Alain Pellet and Eversheds dispute resolution director Rodman Bundy, assissted on the ground by additional solicitor general PS Narasimha and officials from Ministries of External Affairs, according to an [http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-hires-foreign-lawyers-to-argue-italian-marines-case-in-germany-1204631 NDTV] report.

It also asked both two countries to submit the initial report in the entire incident by September 24.

The court, which is mandated by the UN, invited both parties to "suspend all court proceedings and shall refrain from initiating new ones which might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted to the... arbitral tribunal or might jeopardise or prejudice the carrying out of any decision which the arbitral tribunal may render".

The tribunal issued the ruling with 15 in favour and six against.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement: "We have just received the order from the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas in the Enrica Lexie incident in which Italy had approached the Tribunal for two provisional measures: that India should refrain from taking or enforcing any judicial or administrative measures against the two Italian marines and from exercising any form of jurisdiction over the incident; and for the return of Sgt. Salvatore Girone to Italy and continued stay of Sgt. Massimiliano Latorre in Italy throughout the proceedings of the Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal.

"While we are studying the judgment in detail, it is clear that the Tribunal did not consider the two provisional measures sought by Italy to be appropriate as that would have pre-judged the merits of the case and would not have equally preserved the rights of both parties until the constitution of the Annex VII Tribunal under UNCLOS, which will decide the issue of jurisdiction."

He said the tribunal has instead prescribed a provisional measure in which both Italy and India should suspend all court proceedings and refrain from initiating new one.

"As a state party to UNCLOS and as a responsible member of the international community that has consistently stood by its international obligations, India will continue to abide by the Tribunal's decisions, including the present one on provisional measures," said Swarup.

The two Italian marines serving aboard oil tanker Enrica Lexie as part of an anti-piracy mission allegedly killed two Indian fishermen off India's Kerala state.

India detained the two marines and a court case is pending, while Italy has challenged India's jurisdiction over the case.

Italy had asked the court to allow Girone to be returned to Italy from India and for Latorre, who was granted temporary leave by India for medical treatment last year, to remain in his country.

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