Rome/New Delhi, Feb 12 IANS | 6 months ago

The Italian government said Tuesday it has petitioned the United Nations over the case of two Italian marines accused of murder in India while awaiting charges for two years.


Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said Italy has "initiated contact" with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over "the lack of charges" and the "restriction of freedom" placed on the marines - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - since the alleged crime, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

The pair has been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges for allegedly killing Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights has agreed to assess the petition," Bonino added.

Bonino reiterated her country's ire over the anti-terrorism charges sought against the India. "Our marines are neither terrorists nor pirates. They carry out a role in the name of the Italian government," said Bonino before foreign affairs and defence committees from parliament. "All options are open, from politics and diplomacy to legal channels. The goal is the dignified return of our marines."

Italy is angry over invoking of an anti-terrorism international piracy laws against the two marines and has challenged it in the Supreme Court. India's Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on Feb. 18 to listen to the Italian and Indian arguments on the use of the anti-piracy law.

After the apex court hearing, the chairs plan to write to their counterparts in all the EU member States and the European Parliament in a bid to drum up international support.

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday chastized India for seeking the charges, upholding Italy's objections. "It means Italy would be seen as a terrorist state and this is unacceptable," said Catherine Ashton.

On Monday Ashton said the case "affects all of Europe", with "huge implications, not only for Italy but also for all the countries engaged in the anti-piracy fight".

Diplomatic sources have told ANSA there was the likelihood that Rome might freeze a number of bilateral treaties being negotiated with India. "These are eventual roads, everything's on the table," said Bonino. According to some reports, the affair is unlikely to be resolved before India's general election in May.

Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said described the case as "unique" and said that India and Italy have differing views on the issue, with the Italian side particularly raising questions over aspects like jurisdiction and laws.

"They (Italians) have said they are not in agreement with our views... We have to understand that this process has not been something our Italian friends are not happy with," the spokesman said.

"Our view is wait till Feb 18, till the matter which is subjudice, is explained in court," he added.

(Posted on 12-02-2014)