Italians feel their sailors were only 'doing duty'

Italy ship_2.jpg.crop_display.jpg

While the alleged killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian Marines has ignited a diplomatic debate between India and Italy, people in this country are sorry for the deaths but are more concerned about the safety of their two soldiers, who they think were merely ‘doing their duty’.

Italian navy chief, Admiral Luigi Binelli Mantelli, was quoted as saying in the Italian media that has been reporting the incident and the subsequent diplomatic spat in a big way: "Let's try and shed light on this incident together, but we will never leave our sailors alone. They were doing their duty and protecting not just the ship but also the 19 crew members on board."

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said, "If our experts are not there, we have no guarantees. These continuous innovations on procedural and legal (points) are not absolutely a positive signal."

The standoff had been increasing since the incident took place around the middle of last month in the Arabian Sea, with the Italian Marines allegedly mistaking the Indian fishermen for pirates and shooting them.

The media has been reporting that the Italian Navy had been "ordered to ignore Indian authorities and keep marines on board" after the incident in which, as the Corrire dell sera newspaper said, ‘Fire from the Italian ship killed Indian fishermen’.

The point of difference between the two countries is on jurisdiction that should be applied in this specific case. The Italian government is of the opinion that, as the incident took place in international waters; the trial of the two accused sailors, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, should be under international law.

The Indian government has a different stand on the issue and believes that since the incident has taken place in Indian waters off the coast of Kerala and two Indian nationals have been killed, the Italian sailors' trial should take place under Indian jurdisction.

Emanuele Sommario, assistant professor on international humanitarian law, Scuola Superiore Sant' Anna, said: "One aspect is that the men reportedly firing the shots were two members of the Italian armed forces acting in their official capacities."

He said it could be maintained that they enjoy functional (and not ‘diplomatic’) immunity from Indian jurisdiction, as they are agents of the Italian state. "This does obviously not mean that - should an investigation find that they have acted recklessly and actually killed the fishermen - the act would have no consequences.

"Yet any reparation for the harm inflicted would be a matter to be discussed between Italy and India. In addition, the case would have to be investigated by the Italian military justice system and, if found guilty, the two soldiers could face severe jail sentences."

Enrico Corradini, a postgraduate in international law, however, had a different take. He told IANS: "Well, I think that the two Italian Marines killed the Indian fishermen without a clear reason. I do not buy the lie that they had to shoot the poor fishermen because the latter were making an assault on the ship carrying oil."

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