The Enrica Lexie case: Hamburg puts the “status quo”



On Monday, the Hamburg court asked India and Italy to “suspend” ongoing court proceedings in the Italian marines case and not initiate new ones that might aggravate or extend the dispute. The Tribunal for the Law of Sea ruled that it would not take action over the killing of two Indian fishermen that caused a diplomatic dispute between Rome and New Delhi and decided to refer the case to the International Court of Justice. Nevertheless, the President of the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS), Vladimir Golitsyn asked the two countries to submit the initial report in the entire incident by September 24.

Italy voiced its satisfaction of a decision that partially safeguards Italian rights. Putting a positive spin on the move, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said it was “a useful decision that established definitively the very important principle that it will not be Indian justice handling the affair”. Nevertheless, some disappointment has been shown as the plea to release the two marines from custody has been implicitly turned down.

Arguing that the incident happened in international waters where national laws do not apply, Rome refuses to try the case in Indian courts. Thus, Italy approached the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for two provisional measures: on the one hand, 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; on the other, to allow for the return from India of marine Salvatore Girone and to allow to marine Latorre, who has granted temporary leave by India for medical reasons, to remain in Italy. Nevertheless, the ITLOS declined to issue provisional measures because that would “infringe on matters linked to the merits of the case”.

On its part, India hailed the verdict saying that the court did not allow one of the accused marines to go home from Indian custody despite Italy’s plea. “It’s clear that the court did not take into account the two requests presented by Italy,” foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup.

The two marines are accused of killing two fishermen after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on them, while protecting a privately owned Italian-flagged oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 2012.In April 2012, Rome paid $190,000 to each of the victims’ families as compensation. In return, the families dropped their cases against the marines, but the Indian state’s case has yet to come to trial.

The fallout from the arrest of the marines has damaged wider relations between Italy and India, contributing to the collapse of a European Union-India summit planned during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France and Germany this spring.

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