Rome/New Delhi: A UN arbitration tribunal has ruled in favour of an Italian marine, held in India on murder charges, by allowing him to return home pending the arbitration proceedings at the Hague.
Two Italian marines -- Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are facing charges of murdering two fishermen in 2012 off the Kerala coast. Latorre is back in Italy after a stroke in 2014 while Girone is staying in Italian embassy here. The two countries have agreed to arbitration by the UN Court.
Reports from Rome said the UN tribunal court has ruled that pending arbitration proceedings, Girone may be permitted to return home. However, the tribunal's order is expected to be made public tomorrow.
Sources in New Delhi denied reports that marine has been ordered to be freed, saying Italy was "misrepresenting" the order which actually affirms the Indian Supreme Court's authority over the matter.
Information reaching the Indian government said "India and Italy asked to approach Supreme Court for relaxation of bail conditions for Girone. Possible return to Italy strictly conditional on Italy guaranteeing to return him if required."
"Foreign Ministry informs that the arbitral tribunal set up in The Hague has anticipated today its decision that Girone Rifleman (be allowed to go) back in Italy until the end of the arbitration proceedings, initiated by the Government on June 26, 2015. The return of the conditions will be agreed between Italy and India," the Italian ministry said.
Italy in March had asked the PCA judges to order India to release its detained marine Girone, saying otherwise he risks four more years in India without any charges being made which would amount to "grave violation of his human rights".
The PCA is hearing oral arguments by the two sides. The arbitration "could last at least three or four years" which means that Girone risks "being held in (New) Delhi, without any charges being made, for a total of seven-eight years", Italy's representative had told the court.
Girone is one of two Italian marines - on board ship 'Enrica Lexie' - accused by India of killing two of its fishermen. He has not been able to leave India, aside from a few brief permits, since the incident.
Meanwhile, Italian new agency ANSA quoted Italian Premier Matteo Renzi as saying that he was sending a message of "friendship and cooperation to the great people of India and to the Indian prime minister (Narendra Modi)" after the news that marine Salvatore Girone is to return to Italy. "We are always ready to cooperate," Renzi added in Florence, as per ANSA.
Later, the sources reproduced "relevant extracts" from the order of the Arbitral Tribunal. According to the extracts - (a) The Order neither releases nor frees any Marine. It only recommends further relaxation of bail conditions of one Italian Marine (Girone) to be considered and decided upon by the Indian Supreme Court. It may be noted that Sgt. Girone is already on bail on Orders of the Supreme Court, the sources said.
(b) The Arbitral Tribunal s Order clearly recognises that "Girone is under India’s authority alone" and that the "Supreme Court of India exercises jurisdiction" over him.
(c) The Order therefore asks India and Italy to approach the Supreme Court of India for relaxation of the bail conditions of one Marine (Girone) under strict conditions to be laid down by the Indian Supreme Court, they said.
(d) The Tribunal has suggested that these may "include the following conditions and guarantees: Italy shall ensure that Sgt. Girone reports to an authority in Italy designated by the Indian Supreme Court in intervals to be determined by the Court; Sgt. Girone shall be required by Italy to surrender his passport and shall be prohibited from leaving Italy unless the Supreme Court of India grants him leave to travel; Italy shall on its own motion, apprise the Supreme Court of India of the situation of Sgt. Girone every three months", the sources said.
(e) Italy itself has accepted that if Girone is allowed by the Indian Supreme Court to return to Italy, "he will remain under the jurisdiction of the Courts of India"..."without prejudice to the authority of India’s courts".
(f) The Order also says that "India must be assured, unequivocally and with legally binding effect, that Sergeant Girone will return to India in case the Arbitral Tribunal finds that India has jurisdiction over him in respect of the Enrica Lexie incident". Italy has already given multiple undertakings to this effect, they added.
(g) The Tribunal affirms that "these undertakings constitute an obligation binding upon Italy under international law". The Tribunal also "confirms that Italy is under an obligation to return Sergeant Girone to India if the Arbitral Tribunal finds that India has jurisdiction over him in respect of the Enrica Lexie incident", the sources said.
2. The Tribunal is adjudicating only on the limited question of whether India or Italy has the jurisdiction to try the two Marines for the killing of two innocent Indian fishermen.
Only after the Tribunal decides which country has jurisdiction, will the criminal trial commence. Pending this final decision of the Tribunal, both Marines are currently on bail on orders of the Supreme Court and will continue to remain under its jurisdiction till the verdict of the Arbitral Tribunal.