Published on July 2, 2020 in News + Media

The International Arbitral Tribunal decided that the two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, both involved in the so-called “Enrica Lexie case” are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

The Enrica Lexie case is an ongoing international controversy deriving from an incident occurred on February 15, 2012, when the Italian oil tanker, the Enrica Lexie, traveling off the coast of India, was approached by an Indian fishing vessel, namely the St. Antony. Two Italian marines onboard, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, had been charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen. On the one hand, Italy contended they were warning shots at the ship. On the other hand, India declared the vessel had been fired at without notice. After the incident, the Indian Navy intercepted the Enrica Lexie and detained the two Italian marines for two and four years with no formal charges. Then, the men were released and returned back to Italy on September 13, 2014 and May 28, 2016.  

However, the incident caused diplomatic tension between India and Italy, because of a conflict of opinions over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity between the two governments. At first, an independent United Nations court was charged to resolve the conflict of jurisdiction. Then, a European Parliament resolution of January 2015 stated that “no charge has been brought by the Indian authorities” and that “Italian marines’ detention without charge was a serious breach of their human rights”. Arbitration began in 2015, when Italy filed a complaint with India under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

On July 2, 2020, the Italian Foreign Minister has announced that the Arbitral Tribunal has published the dispositif of the Award, in which it agreed that the two Italian marines were working for the Italian armed forces and they are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Indian courts. Therefore, India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction over the Marines and the jurisdiction has been entrusted to Italy, who, on its turn, has to resume its criminal investigation into the Enrica Lexie incident.

However, according to the Arbitral Tribunal, Italy breached the freedom of navigation provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Hence, India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with “loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the Indian fishing boat”. In this regard, Italy and India will consult so as to reach an agreement on the amount of compensation due.

As stated by the Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi di Maio, the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal is a very “good news”, which constitutes the end of a “long agony”. Moreover, Italy and the legal team involved could be satisfied about the endless efforts they made during the last years. As Di Maio declared, Rome is fully committed in respecting the Tribunal’s provision and it is willing to cooperate.

 

This article was firstly published on July 2, 2020

Piera Laurenza