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India launches diplomatic offensive against Italy
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, March 14
India today launched a diplomatic offensive against Italy by explaining to the European Union (EU) the implications of Rome’s refusal to honour its commitment to send back the two Italian marines to this country to face trial for the murder of two Indian fishermen. Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini was also called to the foreign office and handed over a copy of the Supreme Court order restraining him from leaving the country. Italy, meanwhile, gave no indication of any change in its stand in the row over the marines with India. “Our very solid position, of which we are fully convinced and that is shared by many of our major international community partners, is that we are acting in full compliance with international legal standards and customary international laws and treaties,’’ Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in Jerusalem.

Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, met EU Ambassador to India Joao Cravinho and briefed him on why it was incumbent upon Rome to send back the two marines in view of the undertaking given by the Italian envoy in the Supreme Court that they would return after casting ballots in the February 24-25 elections. Italy is a key member of the 27-member EU. Briefing reporters, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin also made it emphatically clear that there would be no compromise with Italy as far as the return of the two marines was concerned. “As part of our ongoing efforts following the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament yesterday, we have initiated a study of our interactions with Italy. At the end of that internal process, we will take appropriate action taking into account all aspects of our relationship,” he said. Answering a question on the Supreme Court order restraining the Italian envoy from leaving the country, the spokesman said that no aspect of the Vienna Convention, which governs

diplomatic relations between countries, was violated by the apex court notice to the ambassador. Significantly, as per Vienna convention, the initiation of proceedings by a diplomatic agent or by a person enjoying immunity from jurisdiction shall preclude him from invoking immunity from jurisdiction in respect of any counterclaim directly connected with the principal claim.

However, it also adds that diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and briefed him on the diplomatic moves initiated by India to bring back the two marines

Envoy briefed

  • Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, met EU Ambassador to India Joao Cravinho and briefed him on why it was incumbent upon Rome to send back the two marines
  • External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met PM Manmohan Singh and briefed him on the moves initiated by India to bring back Italian marines


SC: Italian envoy can’t leave India
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 14
The Supreme Court today put Italy in a fix by directing its Ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave the country as he had failed to honour his undertaking to the court that he would ensure the return of two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast on February 15, 2012.

A three-member SC Bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir passed the order restraining the Ambassador from leaving the country till March 18 without its permission in the wake of Italy’s refusal to send back the marines for facing trial.

The Bench, which included Justices Anil R Dave and Vikramajit Sen, passed the order, perhaps the first of its kind in the world, after being informed by Attorney General GE Vahanvati that the government had received a communication from the Italian Embassy here in the form of “note verbale” stating that the two accused “will not return to India” as per the undertaking given to the SC.

The court also issued notice to the Ambassador and the two accused, seeking their explanation on their U-turn by March 18. If the notice could not be served on the accused directly, it should be done through the envoy, the Bench said.

The SC had allowed the accused marines -- Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone - on February 22, 2013 to go to Italy for casting their votes in the February 24-25 Parliament election. The apex court had permitted them to go to Italy and stay there for four weeks on an assurance given by the envoy that he would take the responsibility for their return by March 22.

The AG said he was sharing the communication with the SC as he felt it was his “duty” to do so as it was the apex court order which was sought to be breached. The government “is extremely concerned about what is happening” and had already rejected the “note verbale” and Italy’s contentions on the issue.

In the March 11 communication to the External Affairs Ministry, Italy said it wanted to first settle the “controversy” over the legal position under international laws, which according to it, granted immunity to the accused marines from being tried under Indian laws.

In this connection, Italy cited the International Customary and Conventional law, including the principle of immunity of jurisdiction for agents of a foreign state and the provisions of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas 1982 meant for dealing with pirates. “For these reasons, Italy requests the Indian government to set up a meeting at diplomatic level in order to reach an amicable solution of this controversy, even through an arbitration or a judiciary solution….Since a controversy between the two states has been established, the two Italian marines will not return to India on the expiration of the permission granted to them,” the note verbale said.

The marines have claimed that they shot dead the fishermen, mistaking them for sea pirates.



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