Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre.—File Photo
Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre.—File Photo

NEW DELHI: Two Italian marines flew back to India on Friday to face murder charges, after Rome dramatically reversed a decision that they would not return which had triggered a diplomatic firestorm.

The Indian government hailed Italy's U-turn as a success for diplomacy after being earlier accused of violating international laws on diplomatic immunity.

Italy meanwhile said it had received assurances about the pair's treatment, with the country's President Giorgio Napolitano paying tribute to the “sense of responsibility” displayed by the two marines.

Italy caused outrage in India earlier this month by announcing that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone would not return to India after they were given leave to vote in an election, reneging on pledges made at the Supreme Court.

But in a late night U-turn which came only hours before a deadline for the pair's return, the Italian government said it had received “ample assurances” from India that the marines' rights would be respected.

“The government decided, also in the interests of the marines, to maintain the commitment taken when they were granted leave to take part in the elections to return to India by March 22,” said a government statement.

“The marines agreed to this decision,” it added.

India's foreign ministry confirmed that the pair had taken an overnight flight and were expected to land in New Delhi on Friday morning.

“They are on their way back to Delhi,” ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told AFP.

The marines' lawyer said he did not expect them to appear in court on Friday.

“My clients will not appear in court today. There is no requirement for them to do so,” Diljeet Titus told AFP.

“I expect to speak with them later today.” While Akbaruddin said the marines' return was “no occasion for gloating”, there was a sense of satisfaction in the Indian government about the Italian change of heart.

In brief comments to reporters, India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday, hailed Italy's decision as a success for diplomacy.

“Diplomacy continues to work when everyone else thinks that everything is lost,” Khurshid said.

R.P.N. Singh, a minister in India's home affairs ministry, tweeted:

“India's tough stand as articulated by the PM...(has) worked.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had warned of “consequences” if Rome did not return the marines while Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born leader of the ruling Congress party, had accused Italy of “betrayal”.

After Italy said on March 11 that the marines would not return, Indian authorities forbade Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, saying he had broken a written promise to the Supreme Court.

New Delhi even put its airports on alert to prevent Mancini from leaving; prompting accusations that India was violating international laws on diplomatic immunity.

Italy had been insisting the pair should be prosecuted in their home country because the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters. India says the killings took place in waters under its jurisdiction.

The two are accused of having shot dead two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates off the Indian port of Kochi last year. They were serving as security guards on an Italian oil tanker.

Relations between the two countries have also been soured by corruption allegations surrounding a $748 million deal for the purchase of 12 Italian helicopters, which the Indian government is now threatening to scrap.

The case has been a severe embarrassment to the Singh government, with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing Italy of treating India like a “banana republic”.

Comments are closed.

Comments (37)

Molly Santucci
March 22, 2013 7:09 am
yes, maybe someday in a million years India will be as powerful as the U.S. is now. All India is good for is poor customer service telephone workers. What a joke!
S. A. M.
March 22, 2013 7:58 am
hopefully not submerging!
Pratik Panchal
March 22, 2013 8:03 am
SAM, don't shower praises as yet on India. Wait till you seen both the marines accorded proper send off to their counttires by the Indian govt.
March 22, 2013 9:11 am
Come after 2020 your view will change and you will recognise your ignorance
March 22, 2013 7:49 am
Being a Pakistani I appreciate India's stance for its citizens. Good Job Done.
March 22, 2013 7:50 am
Excellent initiative by Indian Govt.
March 22, 2013 7:41 am
Immature Italian Foreign Policy !! Europeans still live in the 19th century mindset of superior race !! They fail to understand the current realities of the world !!
March 22, 2013 8:51 am
The brazenness of the italian decision of not sending the marines would have caused huge difficulties for the already sinking Italian economy and Italy could not risk their economy for the sake of their two citizen because Italy knows the importance of India in the coming decade
March 22, 2013 7:41 am
Please read your statement again. You are saying India is drowning.
March 22, 2013 4:18 pm
This is the fruit of secularism, democracy and justice. pakistan could have taken a leaf from the indian experiment, if they would have immaculated the lessons, india learnt, pakistan would not have in the bad shape as it is now
Secular no more
March 22, 2013 4:56 pm
Being an INDIAN i liked your are soooo unaware of the reality.....may sense prevail on you....
S. A. M.
March 22, 2013 7:44 am
immersing or emerging power?
March 22, 2013 7:28 am
immersing ? :-)
G. Din
March 22, 2013 12:33 pm
How is it that you can't see what principles were involved here and how Italian actions, if persevered with, would have struck at the root of all international relations? Is it your superciliousness to be talking down to Indians about their "pseudo patriotism and silly egoism"? I think, sir, you are a gasbag yourself!
March 22, 2013 3:12 pm
A few days ago I thought this episode will go the Raymond Davis way. but today it took a very satisfying turn. Nice to know that in the international community India is not being taken for granted.
March 22, 2013 7:24 am
Now that our egos are satisfied, without much further ado, please finish the judicial process. No one benefits from unnecessary controversies. Punishing Italians will neither make us heros nor improve our lifestyles. I don't understand why many folks are giving into ephemeral emotions. Is that all we are reduced to - just a gas bag of pseudo patriotism and silly egoism?
March 22, 2013 10:07 am
There are a lot of advantages to a participative democracy which is what India has become over the last decade.
March 22, 2013 11:53 am
good job well done
March 22, 2013 2:41 pm
This is the fruit of secularism, democracy and justice. pakistan could have taken a leaf from the indian experiment, if they would have immaculated the lessons, india learnt, pakistan would not have in the bad shape as it is now
March 22, 2013 2:45 pm
See the outcome in this case and that of Raymond davis
March 22, 2013 1:19 pm
Molly, Do realize that Asian economy as a whole is flourishing in comparison to European economy which is striving due to fully developed nations like Germany and the UK. The moment Asia replicates the ideology of an Asian union with free trade and commerce, I'm very sure of Asia taking over the world.
S. A. M.
March 22, 2013 6:22 am
what a great success for the Indian diplomacy. It is so amazing that India is not only so aware of the feelings of its people but also takes strong decision to clearly tell the world that they do not accept any nonsense. Is the Govt of Pakistan having time to read the news. Can they compare what they have done on international/national level for their own people with what India has done for its citizens? I won't say shame on ... as it would not have any impact but I would definitely say what a pity to the people of our country.
March 22, 2013 6:28 am
Good job Govt of India.
March 22, 2013 6:32 am
No country in the world ignore India because now india is immersing power
March 22, 2013 6:33 am
Finally we are succeeded in compel italy to do what we want..
P N Eswaran
March 22, 2013 6:52 am
Less developed countries like India are looked down upon with suspicion and corrupt. While corruptions is rampant in India, especially during Congress regime when it becomes all pervasive, the so called developed countries far no better. Italy's reengaging on the promise of the return of the Marines shows its criminal mentality. It had to do an U-turn on realizing the economic fall out. The Indian people have to be congratulated for not resorting to street protests but making its leaders realize that there is an electoral consequence if the marines don't return. Instead of applauding Italy they should demand an apology for its intention to act against good faith and written commitments. Italy has lost its face which is difficult to recover. The weak government in Delhi has at last did what it should for a change.
March 22, 2013 7:04 am
emerging and not "immersing"brother :)
March 22, 2013 7:16 pm
That would be the court decision my friend. Government and establishment have played their roll now ball is in the SC. You can't see in white and black. They have to consider many thing unknown to the common people. First thing first. They compel to send back so that is the effectiveness of the diplomacy forget who win or loss.
Sach baat
March 22, 2013 7:34 pm
Good Job India .. I am happy and proud to be Indian in Europe....well done
March 23, 2013 12:39 am
March 23, 2013 2:12 am
Thank you friend! -Indian
March 23, 2013 2:28 am
You are right, India is "immersing" power.
March 23, 2013 5:27 am
Don't blame them. Our courts are not known for their fairness and delivery of justice... Okay Indian courts and judicial system may be better than Pakistani ones, but still a far cry from the ones in Western countries.
March 23, 2013 10:53 am
conspiracy right?
March 23, 2013 11:52 am
Mr Santucci, take your face out of your pasta and look at the world around you. It has moved on. While this particular incident with the Marines will take its own course, the fact that your country so blatantly gave the finger to the legal system of a country it thought it could push around like 50 years ago, shows where how far apart Italians and the modern world are.
March 23, 2013 5:27 pm
well... some of us are also have that slave mentality and inferiority complex !!
March 23, 2013 5:33 pm
Italy committed a big blunder. The marines should not have been sent back at all. The jurisdiction India does not have. The Supreme Court of India declared the Kerala State does not have jurisdiction and that means all the charge sheet and the charges in the Kerala Court go TUP - quashed? Unless another specific charge is filed I doubt if any Court in India, even the Supreme Court, has jurisdiction. Then the incident did occur not in Indian territorial waters but in the contiguous zone (admittedly by the Indian Police themselves); but not even in contiguous zone, but in international waters says Italy. So this becomes a disputed question of fact and hence can be decided only by a court of international jurisdiction. Both sides should agree to submit the matter to the ICJ, Hague and abide by its decision. The customary international law up to now is (1) principle of aut dedere aut judicare (Latin for "extradite or prosecute") - which allows the flag State to prosecute itself for the crimes committed; and (2) principle of 'sovereign immunity' by which no other State can prosecute the official representatives or staff of a sovereign state against its sanction and in case the said state (this case Italy) takes such objection, the other State (India) will not have jurisdiction or power to prosecute and try them (Italian marines). Further the fishermen's boat St. Antony was registered in Tamil Nadu, and it could not legally travel beyond 12 Nautical miles - that is basically those fishermen were transgressing law - perhaps ignorantly for their own living or greed, but other illegal purposes could not also be ruled out. Also Section 4 of IPC cannot be interpreted to give jurisdiction to Indian courts in this case since the Italian vessel has not been registered in India, it seems. The assurances of Indian Government that the Italian marines would not be awarded death sentence cannot be relied on, if really they were made. At least after the Afzal Guru hanging, where against all civilized norms, even a 'last interview' was not granted to the condemned prisoner, the Italians should have been more cautious. Even if the Govt gave an assurance it is not binding on the Courts.
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