GS Paper - 2 International Relations

The Supreme Court on 9 April 2021 said that the case against two Italian marines who gunned down two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February, 2012, will be closed only after Republic of Italy deposits with it Rs 10 crore as compensation to victims. The compensation is a mutually agreed amount between India and Italy in terms of the award by an international tribunal. The apex court has said that Rs 4 crore each out of the compensation will go to the next of kin of the two fishermen while Rs 2 crore will be given to the owner of the fishing vessel in which they were travelling.

What is the Italian Marines case?

  1. On 15 February 2012, two Indian fishermen returning from a fishing expedition near Lakshadweep islands onboard fishing vessel St Antony were gunned down by two Italian marines on board oil tanker Enrica Lexie.
  2. The incident occurred around 20 nautical miles off the coast of Kerala. Shortly after the incident, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted Enrica Lexie and detained the two Italian marines— Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre.
  3. Following this, the Kerala Police registered an FIR against them for murder and arrested them. In April, 2013, the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which invoked the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA).
  4. The SUA Convention was passed in 1988 with the goal of suppressing international terrorism.
  5. Meanwhile, in early 2013, the marines were allowed to go back to Italy to vote. Once the marines landed in Italy, Italian authorities notified India they would not return the marines unless there was a guarantee they would not face the death penalty. After tense diplomatic discussions, the two marines were returned, without any of the guarantees requested by Italy.

How did the dispute move to an international tribunal?

  1. On 26 June 2015, Italy instituted proceedings against India before an arbitral tribunal to be constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS.
  2. On 21 July, it submitted a request before the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), an arbitral tribunal under the International Court of Justice, under Article 290, Paragraph 5 of UNCLOS, seeking “provisional measures” directing India to not take any judicial or administrative step against the marines, and to allow Girone to leave and let both men stay in Italy until the end of the Tribunal’s proceedings.