Italy and India Stand Off Over M/V Enrica Lexie Incident [UDPATED]

Mike Schuler
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February 21, 2012

Tensions are escalating between Italy and India over who exactly holds jurisdiction over last weeks incident involving the killing of two Indian fisherman by Italian guards onboard the M/V Enrica Lexie.  The two Italian guards, identified as Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone from Italy’s San Marco Regiment, were arrested Sunday in Kochi after four days of negotiations between Indian and Italian diplomats and could be facing murder charges.  The incident is the first involving the death of innocent civilians at the hands of armed security personnel onboard ships.

Just check out the reports below. The first is a report by India’s NDTV.  As you can see India is standing firm, already claiming that the mens arrest was a diplomatic win for India.  The second are statements posted by Italy’s Navy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both claiming the incident occurred within international and the men acted in accordance with proper procedures.

India’s Stance

This video provides pretty good insight into the stance India has taken on the issue.

Italy’s Stance

The following is a translation of a statement posted directly to the Italian Navy’s website and accompanied with a large picture of the Enrica Lexie (above):

The two riflemen of the San Marco Regiment, men trained to think before they act, have occurred only in accordance with the procedures and within the framework of measures that concern the fight against piracy. They fired warning shots into the air and in water (warning shots) to protect “their” territory, responding fully to the existing rules. Namely, to protect the safety of maritime traffic from criminal activity that endangers the personal and economic freedoms of the high seas.

The action of the men of the Navy, aboard the Enrica Lexie as a core military security, has occurred in international waters in compliance with UN resolutions and the law n.130 of August 2, 2011, and has developed against a vessel to be defined “vessel suspected of piracy.” The San Marco Regiment of Fusiliers have occurred last Wednesday, at 12.30 Italian, Enrica Lexie while sailing off the coast of Southwest Indian Peninsula, and after having sighted a boat with five armed men on approach. Despite the optical signals and the identification procedure carried out by gunmen, the boat continued its course. At that point, the men of the Navy exploded three series of shots into the sea (20 in all) for deterrence and did not hit the hull of the “vessel suspected of piracy.” After the last set, the boat drifted away from the Italian ship.

Meanwhile, here’s the statement from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released on Monday:

Following up on a telephone call from Foreign Minister [Giulio Terzi] to his Indian colleague [S.M Krishna], a delegation of representatives from three Italian ministries arrived in New Delhi this morning. The delegation, accompanied by the Ambassador of Italy, has already met with Indian officials to discuss all the aspects of the case, which the Italian government considers as within its jurisdiction since the incident took place in international waters on a ship waving the Italian flag. Italy has also underscored that the military presence aboard Italian mercantile ships is regulated by a specific Italian law that also corresponds with the needs of UN counter-piracy resolutions. It was pointed out in this context that the military is an organ of the Italian Republic and therefore enjoys immunity from prosecution by foreign governments.

The meeting did not lead to consensus. Contacts and collaboration between the two governments are considered essential to ascertaining the actual facts, in order to counter any unilateral actions undertaken by the police.

The Consul General of Italy in Mumbai is ensuring assistance and protection to the Italian nationals involved, and is in constant contact with the foreign ministry’s Crisis Unit and the experts of the three ministries, and is monitoring all the actions undertaken by the local authorities.

Tuesday Update:

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi has decided to send Under-Secretary Staffan De Mistura to India in relation to the case involving the Italian ship, the Enrica Lexie.

The Under-Secretary leaves for India today. Minister Terzi has instructed him to continue, at the political level, the work already carried out by the delegation of Italian experts from the Foreign, Defence and Justice Ministries. Under-Secretary De Mistura will have contacts at the highest level with the state and federal authorities in, respectively, Kochi and in New Delhi, which Minister Terzi will be visiting in person on Tuesday 29 February.

I guess we have to ask…

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