Italy to return marines to India – Margherita Stancati

Italian shooters Massimiliano Latorre (R) and Salvatore Girone

Margherita Stancati“With the marines’ announced return, that case [of contempt of court against the Italian ambassador] is now likely to be dropped. However, the issue is likely to continue to aggravate relations between the nations, with Italian and Indian public opinion divided over where the men should be tried.” – Margherita Stancati

Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini exits the Ministry of External Affairs offices in New Delhi on March 12, 2013.Bowing to pressure from New Delhi, Rome announced two Italian marines will return to India to stand trial on murder charges, a move that is likely to end a diplomatic impasse between the two countries.

Following discussions with Indian officials, the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti said that the two men—Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone—will be returning to India on Friday.

“Indian authorities have given us a written assurance that the marines will be treated well, and that their rights will be respected,” the Italian government said in a statement on Thursday night.

The men are accused of fatally shooting two Indian fishermen off the coast of southern India last year. They deny the charges.

They were detained by local police, sparking a disagreement between Italy and India over where they should be tried.

India’s Supreme Court in January ordered its own courts have jurisdiction, and said the criminal case will be handled in a special court in Delhi.

Italy contended the men should be tried in Italy as the incident occurred in international waters.

A month later, the court agreed to a request from Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini, on behalf of his government, to allow the two men to travel to Italy for a four-week period to vote.

Fishermen's FuneralLast week, Italy announced the naval officers would not be returning to India as planned, a decision that led to an escalating diplomatic crisis.

Italy, arguing India violated international laws of the sea, called for the dispute to be addressed through international channels. India rejected these calls, urging Italy to respect the assurance given to the Supreme Court and return the two marines as promised.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a contempt-of-court petition against Mr. Mancini. It also issued a travel ban on the ambassador, a move that angered Italy and the European Union, who say the order contravened international law on diplomatic immunity.

With the marines’ announced return, that case is now likely to be dropped. However, the issue is likely to continue to aggravate relations between the nations, with Italian and Indian public opinion divided over where the men should be tried.

Mr. Mancini could not be reached for comment. – The Wall Street Journal, 21 March 2013

» Margherita Stancati is the editor at The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog based in New Delhi.

Enrica Lexie

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