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OUR SERVICEMEN: Respect international law, Italy tells India

The intervention of the Head of State, the initiative by Prime Minister Mario Monti, and the daily endeavours of Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi all indicate the approach Italy is following with India to find a solution to the case of the two servicemen arrested in that country.

For Italy, the necessary condition is full respect for international law and the recognition of Italian jurisdiction. Any failure to observe that law means that the proceeding against the two Italian servicemen is “illegitimate” (as Minister Terzi told the Indian Ambassador to Rome when he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry recently). The proceeding would also be a “dangerous precedent” that could undermine peacekeeping missions and the campaign against piracy (as Prime Minister Monti told the Indian Prime Minister when he called him yesterday, 7 March 2012).

“We firmly reaffirmed the reasons guiding our servicemen”, stated the Head of State, “who were engaged in a mission of indisputable importance for the international community. We wish to avoid any rift in the relationship of friendship and mutual respect between Italy and India because the continuity of this relationship is the best guarantee we have for a positive solution to this case”.

Referring to the “alleged incident, the circumstances of which have yet to be verified”, Monti told his Indian counterpart that “the event took place in international waters […] and Italy alone has jurisdiction”.

New Delhi states that it does not recognise the status of immunity for military personnel on board ships engaged in EU or NATO anti-piracy missions because the Vessel Protection Detachment agreement “does not apply at the global level […] and therefore does not constitute a legal base for India”. “That”, Minister Terzi responded, “is not the case. For peacekeepers operating within the framework of UN resolutions, the principle of immunity applies”. In the meantime, a European “front” on the case is being formed: contacts have begun between EU diplomats in India and the Indian authorities.

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