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ITLOS Asks India to Suspend Italian Marines Trial
Sep 08, 2015

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg is hearing the case of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012. As part of provisional measures it directed that both Italy and India shall suspend all court proceedings relating to the matter.

While a final decision on which country can exercise jurisdiction over the marines is yet to be taken by Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the ITLOS was, meanwhile, deciding on Italy’s request for provisional measures in the case and India’s arguments against it.

  • The ITLOS directed the countries to refrain from initiating new court proceedings which might aggravate or extend the dispute or might jeopardise or prejudice the carrying out of any decision which the arbitral tribunal may render.

  • The tribunal also decided that both countries would submit an initial compliance report by September 24, and authorised its president to request such information from the two parties as he may consider appropriate. 

  • In effect, with status quo prevailing in the matter, India will not have to give in to Italy’s demand for lifting restrictions on Italian Sergeant Salvatore Girone to allow him to travel to Italy and remain there throughout the proceedings.

  • The 21-member ITLOS issued the order with 15 in favour and 6 against. 

  • As provisional measures, Italy had asked ITLOS to precribe that India refrain from taking or enforcing any judicial or administrative measures against Sergeants Massimiliano Latorre and Girone in connection with the firing, and from exercising any other form of jurisdiction.

  • It also wanted the tribunal to direct that India shall take all measures necessary to ensure that restrictions on the liberty, security and movement of the marines be immediately lifted to enable Sergeant Girone to travel and remain in Italy and Sergeant Latorre to remain in Italy throughout the duration of the proceedings.

  • Countering these demands, India had asked ITLOS to reject the submissions made by the Republic of Italy for the prescription of provisional measures and refuse prescription of any provisional measures in the case.

  • Italy had approached the tribunal for two provisional measures: that India should refrain from taking or enforcing any judicial or administrative measures against the two Italian marines and from exercising any form of jurisdiction over the incident; and for the return of Sgt Girone to Italy and continued stay of Sgt Latorre in Italy.

  • It is clear that 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 and would not have equally preserved the rights of both parties.

ITLOS: The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention. The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.

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