India and Italy at loggerheads over killings of fishermen | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 14.03.2013
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India and Italy at loggerheads over killings of fishermen

India's Supreme Court has restrained Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India in light of Rome’s decision to not send back two Italian marines charged with kiling two Indian fishermen.

In February, the Indian Supreme Court granted permission to two Italian marines charged with the murder of two fishermen to go back to Italy.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been charged with killing two fishermen near the state of Kerala last year, had requested permission to travel home to cast their votes in general elections and to spend the Easter holidays there.

In December, they had been granted permission to travel to Italy for Christmas and had returned to India as agreed.

However, this time Italy has refused to send them back.

Taken for pirates

Selestian Valentine and Ajesh Pinky from the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala were returning from a fishing expedition on 15. February 2012 when they were shot by the two Italian marines who were guarding an Italian cargo vessel off India's south-western coast. They had opened fire in self-defense, assuming that the fishermen were pirates.

The Enrica Lexie moves out of the Kochi port AP/dapd

The Marines were guarding the Enrica Lexie

After the shots were fired, the Enrica Lexie, continued sailing for almost three hours and covered a distance of 70 kilometers. The incident was not reported during this time although this is a mandatory procedure.

Retired Major General Deepankar Banerjee told DW it was "vital" that it be decided exactly where the incident occurred. "A crime was committed and two people lost their lives."

He suggested the investigation take place in India and Italy.

"One can find a solution, one can talk about it but breaking the code by disregarding the Supreme Court's decision is not acceptable even at an international level," he said. "The marines were supposed to be sent back after the holidays. It is a clear violation of trust."

He said that the incident would clearly affect relations between the two countries. "What effect it will have on the economy is difficult to say at this point. Looking at the situation now, I think Italy has suffered more though."

Warnings of 'consequences'

Italy insists the marines should be prosecuted in their home country because the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters. However, India says the killings took place in waters under its jurisdiction.

"We are acting in full respect of international legal rules and international law," Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata said this week.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned of "consequences" unless the two marines were returned by March 22.

"They violate every rule of diplomatic discourse and call into question solemn commitments given by an accredited representative of a government," he added.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says there will be 'consequences'

Narendra Modi from the Hindu nationalist BJP tweeted that the ruling United Progressive Alliance should “explain to the nation what actions it plans to take to ensure the return of the Italian marines to face trial.” He said nothing short of their return would be “acceptable.”

On Thursday, a three-judge bench at India’s Supreme Court said that Ambassador Daniele Mancini, who negotiated the release of the marines and was summoned to the Indian foreign ministry earlier this week, should remain in India until the next hearing about the dispute.