This refers to the articles “Rome must stand by commitment, envoy told,” and “The Italian bombshell” (March 13). While one cannot pass any comment on the Supreme Court’s direction to let the marines go to Italy to vote, the Kerala court was definitely more cautious when it gave them permission to go home for Christmas. In hindsight, the government may offer many excuses but it is a pity that Italy has chosen to go back on its promises. It is again a pity that the Italian Ambassador is immune to action.
Ironically, it was on account of the hijacking of an Italian vessel in October 1985 that the Rome Convention 1988 (Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Marine Navigation) came into being to combat piracy. Clearly, the fishermen of Kerala aboard their trawler “St. Anthony” were not engaged in any unlawful act as stipulated in that convention either and, therefore, do not attract any of those conditions stipulated therein.
Article 101 of the International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) defines what piracy is. As the fishermen or their boat did not attract any of those conditions, the marines did not have the option to shoot and kill people sailing on a registered craft of some other nation when they were sailing in an area not known for any acts of piracy. This is a case of serious crime. India has to act more firmly.
Italy’s refusal to honour its commitment made to the Supreme Court, thus deceiving the law of the land, not to mention its people, is shameful and a new low for any country. The rest of Europe must be equally shocked as India is.
Italy’s stand is totally unacceptable. It is a shame that we have still not learnt lessons after bitter experiences with Ottavio Quattrocchi, Warren Anderson and Kim Davy. Whatever has happened to the cliché “once bitten twice shy”? Also, India’s portrayal of itself as a soft nation, especially in the immediate neighbourhood, is partly responsible for the situation. The failure to extradite the Italian marines could soon turn into a major political embarrassment for the UPA government.
Though voting is a legal right in India, prisoners are denied this. Polling stations are neither set up in jails nor is the facility of postal voting made available to prisoners. Sending inmates out to cast their vote on parole is totally out of the question in Indian jails. The Supreme Court could have treated the marines on a par with their native counterparts. At least, adequate collateral security could have been elicited from them before setting them out on parole, as had been done by the High Court of Kerala.
In the eyes of the West, Indians are poor and can be bought over. If Italy is not going to send back its marines within the stipulated period, then India has to think of drastic action. India should also constitute a trial court in New Delhi immediately and get the wheels of justice moving.
P.K. Balachandran Nair,
The liberty Italy has taken with India would not have arisen if the aggrieved country was the United States, Russia or China. How other countries will pass judgment on Italy’s conduct will purely depend on their economic and political interests alone. As the maxim goes: “There is no permanent friend or enemy but only permanent interests.” And for good measure, all of them will be advising India and Italy to settle the issue amicably.
Instead of blaming Italy, it would be more appropriate to look at the lengths to which our government allowed such a situation to happen — accommodating the requests of the marines. Which country offers such facilities for undertrials of another nation? Their case should have been tried speedily in a special court. The Italian move comes after a series of snubs by nations. Even the Maldives has managed to catch India off guard.
In the play “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare we have a scene during the burial of Julius Caesar where Brutus says: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but I love Rome more.” In this case, Italy seems to have borrowed a line from Brutus’s speech attempting to claim “not that we do not recognise the order of the Indian court less, but we attach importance to United Nations convention of the Law of the Sea more.” Rome and Romans should lend their ears to the call of India.