India asks Italy to return marines

Envoy summoned, anger conveyed
Last Updated 12 March 2013, 21:51 IST

After the Italian government refused to send back marines to face a murder trial, the Indian government sternly asked the European nation to respect the sovereign undertaking given by Rome to the Supreme Court and ensure their return.

Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini, who gave the sovereign undertaking to the apex court on February 9, was summoned by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in his office to convey the government's displeasure in the strongest of terms.

“India expects the Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfil the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India. It was conveyed to the Italian Ambassador that the Italian government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court order,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.

Hours before the Italian envoy was summoned, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Italy's decision was unacceptable to India. He assured the members of Parliament that the issue would be taken up with Rome. The two Italians were to return by March 23 as they were granted a month's leave by the Supreme Court after the Italian envoy assured the court that the marines would return after four weeks to face the trial. This was their second visit to Italy in two months as they were earlier granted bail for spending the Christmas with their families.

But on Monday India received a rude jolt when the Italian Foreign Ministry said the marines would not come back and Rome was open to allow an international arbitrator to examine the case.

Mathai reminded Mancini of his own undertaking in which he prayed to the court to allow the two marines—Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone—to travel to Italy for four weeks and return to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic.

The External Affairs Ministry said it received a note from Rome on March 6 requesting New Delhi to reach an amicable solution to the incident through diplomatic routes.
In an interview given to Italian news agency ANSA on Tuesday, Latorre said he and Girone were happy as they could go back to the work. The duo also thanked the Italian President. The Italian government on Monday stated “the conduct of Indian authorities violated international rights” as the marines had been  detained since last February.

Citing the Italian note, the MEA claimed Italians flagged a “controversy” in the provision of United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, 1982, and general principles of international law as applicable to this case.

(Published 12 March 2013, 16:20 IST)

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