India has taken strong exception to the European Parliament’s resolution, that accused India of “a serious breach of human rights” in its treatment of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.
The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the case was sub-judice, and on January 14th, the supreme court had granted one of the marines Massimiliano Latorre, who is currently convalescing in Italy after a heart surgery a three-month extension of his stay there. The other marine, Salvatore Girone is presently living in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi, under special arrangements granted by the court. “Under these circumstances, the European Parliament would have been well advised not to adopt the Resolution," Mr. Akbaruddin said.
On Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution calling on India to repatriate the marines to Italy. The EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini, who made a strong speech on the issue at the parliament in Brussels, also indicated that the lack of a resolution between India and Italy was impacting India-EU ties as well. "We have to ensure that the principles of international law are complied with and I think that the fate of the two marines will be linked to the credibility of our anti-piracy efforts,” she said.
With the EU taking a sharp position in favour of Italy’s stand that the marines, as members of the Italian armed forces, who allegedly mistook the fishermen for pirates, should not be tried in Indian courts, the matter is likely to get more heated, and EU ambassador to India Jose Cravinho flew to Brussels for consultations on Thursday night.
According to the EU’s press release, “MEPs stressed that restrictions on the marines’ freedom of movement represent "a serious breach of their human rights" and ask for their repatriation. They also back the positions stated by Italy on the 2012 incident and therefore hope that “jurisdiction will fall to the Italian authorities and/or international arbitration".
Making the issue more complex is that the ruling party the BJP had, while in opposition, bitterly fought against any special treatment for the marines, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking a strong interest in the case when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. In March 2014, he slammed the UPA government’s decision to allow the marines to return home for a brief furlough. However in October 2014, the new government didn’t oppose Mr. Latorre’s plea to be allowed to return due to his heart condition, suggesting that the Modi government was softening its position. So far, no chargesheet has been filed by the prosecution in the case.
Last week, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who visited India, had also expressed concern that the issue has not been resolved by India and Italy as yet. It is "important for both parties to try to reach a reasonable and mutually acceptable solution," said UNSG spokesman Stephen Dujarric, adding that Mr. Ban "fears the issue could affect common efforts for peace and international security".