Italy: Delay in charging marines ‘violation’ of justice says minister

India’s failure to charge two Italian marines over the case of two fishermen shot dead off the southern state of Kerala coast almost two years ago is a travesty of justice, Italy’s foreign minister said on Monday.

“Undoubtedly, if two years after the event, it has not been possible to lay charges, this is obviously a violation of any idea of adequate justice,” Emma Bonino stated.

She was speaking ahead of a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, where she was expected to raise the issue of Italian riflemen Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who are facing trial for murder in India and possible execution.

The pair were detained over the incident in February 2012 when they allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen while guarding an Italian oil tanker off Kerala, mistaking the fishermen for pirates.

India’s Supreme Court on Monday adjourned until 3 February a plea from Girone and Latorre that the case against them be dropped due to the the inordinate delay in the filing of charges and their trial.

Italy claims jurisdiction in the case, arguing that the incident took place in international waters and that the two marines should be sent home for trial.

It is strenuously opposing moves by Indian authorities to try Girone and Latorre in a special court under anti-piracy legislation that sanctions capital punishment for defendants who are found guilty.

A cross-party delegation of Italian lawmakers may travel to India as soon as on Sunday in solidarity with two marines, the president of Italy’s conservative Fratelli D’Italia party, Ignazio La Russa, said on Monday.

The politicians will hail from Italy’s upper and lower houses of parliament, according to a statement issued last week by the chairmen of the foreign affairs and defence commissions of both houses.

The commission chairmen may meet their Indian counterparts during the visit, the statement said.

India’s home ministry on Friday reportedly sanctioned the prosecution of the marines under by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) which carries the death penalty.

The case has highlighted the recent practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships as protection against pirate attacks and maritime experts say it is the first test of whether military personnel enjoy sovereign immunity aboard commercial vessels.


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