The Italian foreign ministry on Tuesday said it will not send back two ship guards charged with the killing of Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, dealing a severe blow to the trial process initiated by the Indian Supreme Court.
Following an appeal by Rome, the Supreme Court last month allowed the duo to go home for four weeks to vote in the national election held Feb. 24. The armed guards were part of a six-member security detachment aboard the Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flag oil tanker, sailing from Singapore to Egypt.
“Italy has informed the Indian government that, given the formal establishment of an international dispute between the two States, the naval guards will not return to India upon expiry of the permission granted,” the ministry said.
The ministry said New Delhi had not responded to Italy's repeated requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case. “Italy has always considered that the conduct of Indian authorities violated international law obligations, in particular the principle of immunity from the jurisdiction of the foreign state bodies and rules of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the foreign ministry said.
Italy’s decision has drawn sharp protests from the Indian government, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing it as “unacceptable.”
“We will study Italy’s communication and take an appropriate position,” Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
The Supreme Court in January turned down a petition by Rome to quash the prosecution, and it ordered the Indian government to set up a special court to try the security guards.