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India must halt court case on Italy marine shooting: UN court


barrister-wig612The UN’s tribunal on maritime law Monday ordered India to halt court proceedings against two Italian marines pending the international body’s ruling on the deadly 2012 case that sparked a diplomatic row.

Two Italian marines serving aboard an oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission allegedly fired shots that killed two Indian fishermen on a boat off India’s southern Kerala state.

India detained the two marines days later and a court case is pending, while Italy has challenged India’s jurisdiction and took its claims to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

In a provisional order on Monday, the international court said: “Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings and shall refrain from initiating new ones which might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted” to it.

That in effect is a decision in favour of Italy, which demanded that India halt its judicial actions while awaiting the court’s final ruling.

But the UN court did not accede to Rome’s second request for both marines to be freed immediately pending a final ruling.

One of the servicemen, Massimiliano Latorre, was last year allowed to temporarily return to Italy for medical treatment and is still there. India in July granted Latorre another six months at home.

The other marine, Salvatore Girone, has been living at Italy’s embassy in New Delhi.

In opening statements, Italy’s Francesco Azzarello said the two marines had “not been charged with any crime” and had “protested their innocence throughout”.

He said the oil tanker, the MV Enrica Lexie, was in international waters at the time of the incident and accused India of an “unlawful exercise of jurisdiction over the incident, over the vessel and over the marines” whom it had arrested.

India however argues that the case is not a maritime dispute but “about a double murder at sea”, in which one fisherman was shot in the head and the other in the stomach.

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