The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has put a “status quo” in the Italian marines case and asked both India and Italy to “suspend” all court proceedings and refrain from initiating new ones that might “aggravate or extend” the dispute that triggered a diplomatic row.
Hearing Italy’s appeal, ITLOS president Vladimir Golitsyn asked the two countries to submit the initial report on the entire incident by September 24.
A senior government official said it was a partial victory for India as the court did not allow one of the accused marines to go home from Indian custody despite Italy’s plea.
He said they would wait for the final verdict by the apex body of ITLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal, which would hear the case later on.
ITLOS, the 21-member U.N.-mandated court located in Hamburg, Germany, issued the order on Monday, with 15 in favour and six against.
Italy had moved ITLOS in July, challenging India’s jurisdiction to try the two marines. It said the incident took place in international waters, and as per international norms they ought to be tried in Italian courts.
In a provisional verdict, ITLOS 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 the Annex VII arbitral tribunal or might jeopardize or prejudice the carrying out of any decision which the arbitral tribunal may render.”
The >incident was reported on February 12, 2012, when Sergeants Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone allegedly opened fire on the boat, St. Antony, killing two fishermen of Kerala on board. The marines were >arrested by the Kerala police. The case was later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Setback for Italy
After the NDA came to power, Italy requested India to resolve the issue. Italy moved for international arbitration, after which, the proceedings in the Supreme Court were stayed.
“The tribunal asked both India and Italy to suspend all court proceedings but kept mum on Italy’s plea to allow him to go back home. It is a setback for Italy. Mr. Girone will stay back in India until the jurisdiction of the case is decided,” a senior Home Ministry official said.
Mr. Latorre has been allowed to stay back home by the Supreme Court for medical reasons. The Ministry of External Affairs said India would abide by the tribunal’s decisions, including the present one on Provisional Measures. Its spokesperson, however, said the tribunal did not consider the two provisional measures sought by Italy to be appropriate as that would have pre-judged the merits of the case.