Indian Court Says Italian Ambassador Has No Immunity in Ship Guard Case

Indian Court Says Italian Ambassador Has No Immunity in Ship Guard Case

The Indian Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Italian ambassador to India cannot claim “diplomatic immunity” in a legal dispute over Rome’s refusal to return two ship guards charged with the killing of Indian fishermen.

“A person who comes to court and gives an undertaking has no immunity,” the Supreme Court said, dismissing Italy’s arguments. “The court has lost faith in Italy’s envoy.”

The nation’s highest court also barred Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving New Delhi until further orders. The next hearing is scheduled for April 2.

Following an appeal by Rome, the Supreme Court last month allowed the naval guards to go home for four weeks to vote in the national election held Feb. 24. But the Italian foreign ministry in a statement later said it would not send back the guards to face trial in India, citing the “U.N.Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

In reaction, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government would review its bilateral ties with Italy if Rome reneged on its commitment to send the guards back.

The case involves a complaint accusing the guards of firing on an “unarmed” Indian fishing trawler off the Kerala coast Feb. 15, 2012, resulting in the death of two fishermen. 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. The guards said they mistook the fishing trawler for a pirate craft.