The scheduling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague of the Italian Marines case has confirmed 30-31 March as the dates when the hearing on the provisional measures regarding Salvatore Girone’s return to Italy will take place. At the same time, it arranged all pronouncements on the legal competence between Italy and India than with regard to this case in 2018. This planning has strongly revived the question of delays and that of the greyzones in the story of the Italian Marine riflemen. In Terris contacted the former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata who was in office at the time, to listen to his opinion. During the management of the crisis, taking advantage of a electoral permit the two Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone had obtained, Minister Terzi, announced on 11 March 2013 – in agreement with the Monti government – that the two riflemen would not have gone back to India after the expiry of the permit. Yet, on 21 March, with a press release, the Italian Government decided to send the two riflemen back to India. On 26 March 2013, Terzi informed the Chamber, on live television, about his resignation from the Foreign Ministry because of his disagreement with the government’s position. On 29 March 2013, during an interview granted to a Mediaset journalistic in-depth, talking about this incident, Terzi denounced that he had been pressured to authorize the return of the two Marines to India. The minister’s rejection of those pressures led to his resignation.
In short, since the distant February 15, 2012 when the Lexie case broke, our Marines have essentially been prisoners and sub judice. Now the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has timetabled the possible decision in 2018. What do you think of the whole story?
“Everyone knew that the arbitration would have required a long time, and the later one begins, the later (s)he concludes. But I have to remind everyone that the arbitration procedure began in March 2013, when the government took the decision and Monti announced urbi et orbi, across the board, even the United Nations and to the international partners, the technical and political reasons for the Marines to be detained until an arbitration decision on the jurisdiction would have been taken. It happened three years ago and the entire process began at that point. There are press releases on the ministry site which date back to 11 and 18 March 2013 ‘.
Then everything stopped. And arbitration reappeared a few months ago…
“Inexplicably, we have waited for two and a half years to repeat the arbitration; all the governments that have followed have announced their willingness to start it immediately, yet it has never happen. These delays, along with the red tape and legal deferrals, led to the situation we witness today.”
Why did the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry, invoked by many political forces to shed light on the real responsibility for certain decisions, never begin?
“It is a truly surprising thing, because the will to clean up would strengthen our international image in an extraordinary way; it would strengthen us also against India”.
Documents that ease the situation of the Marines was presented las summer in Hamburg. Why nobody talks about it?
“There are many people who believe that these documents are of great importance also in the world of internationalists who have followed this case from the very beginning. What came out in August, in Hamburg, showed irrefutably that there was no incident in which two fishermen died, but that those deaths occurred ten miles away from the place where Lexie was; moreover, the autopsy showed that the calibre of the bullets that killed the fishermen are is different from the calibre of the bullets Italian armed forces use, and that there was deliberately vexatious action against the Italian naval unit to make it enter Indian territorial waters. In short, there is a huge amount of documents and evidence the Italian government has not used.”
Thus, the whole story may have been skilfully made-up?
“I am certain that the fact was invented in a quite obvious way by New Delhi to show – for their domestic political reasons – that they had seized those responsible for the death at sea of the two Indian nationals. But this was not the case.”
Now, however, we have no choice but to wait till 2018…
“At the point where things are now, despite having started the arbitration procedure, the government will have to wait. The latter, in fact, will decide who will have the jurisdiction, but the whole thing will not end once we know who has the jurisdiction. From that moment, the actual trial will begin, with prosecution on the merits. It will end much later than in 2018… ”
In short, there is evidence that the Marines are innocent but we have to wait one more year to enforce it. And one of them is still a prisoner. What should Italy do?
“It is unbelievable, in my opinion and according to many observers, that from August to present times not one voice from the Italian Government has said the Marines have nothing to do with this story and that they must come back home. Palazzo Chigi should take an official position, saying: we have begun arbitration, but our position is firm in the belief that the two Italian soldiers are innocent and kept in a situation of serious danger for everyone. I think that affirming this clear and secure position – which comes from the conclusions of the paper whose presentation the Italian government has witnessed in Hamburg – may be crucial also in the decision to be taken in March on whether the two riflemen should come back home or not. How come, six months later, it has not happened yet? ”
Questions that, in the light of the statements made at the time of the alleged collision, and the subsequent government decisions, can even resemble rhetorical questions. In the meantime, the Marines remain suspended in a procedure which – we remind it to those who might have forgotten -, in case the line Indian line prevails, might even lead to their death sentence. That is why sending them back to the sender was the second (the first one had been docking Lexie in India) and the most serious mistake in this complicated and foggy Italian story. It is a mystery, which along with many others, unfortunately constellates the Italian Republic.