Italy seeks more UN support over marines dispute with India

February 14, 2014 7:39 am 

ROME, Feb. 14 — Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino announced on Thursday she will soon meet with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, over the dispute of two Italian marines kept in India for alleged murder of two fishermen.

Italy had announced its intention to petition the UN on Tuesday, over a possible violation of human rights for what Bonino has described as a "lack of charges and restriction of freedom" placed on the marines since they were arrested two years ago.

Addressing the Senate on Thursday morning, Bonino restated Italy's concerns over possible negative repercussions the dispute may bring to international missions against terrorism.

"This case is not to be handled as a bilateral issue. We received support from EU (the European Union) and NATO because the basic principles concerning the rule of law and the implementation of international conventions against terrorism are at stake here," Bonino declared.

The bitter row between Italy and India over the fate of the Italian marines reached a peak this week, after Indian prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to charge them under an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism law.

Massimiliano La Torre and Salvatore Girone were part of an international anti-piracy mission protecting a cargo ship off the Indian coasts in February 2012.

They were arrested for opening fire on a fishing boat approaching the cargo, and two fishermen were killed in the incident. The marines alleged they had mistaken the boat for a pirate vessel and admitted opening fire, but denied killing them.

The incident sparked much tension between the two countries, usually in good ties, with Italy insisting the incident occurred in international waters and India demanding the marines be tried on its soil.

Indian Supreme Court will decide on Feb. 18 whether to accept or reject the prosecutors' request. Death penalty has been excluded, but the marines could face up to 10 years in prison.

Yet, the request to charge the two marines under an anti-terrorism legislation caused outrage in Italy, and Rome's government has been exerting much diplomatic pressure to gather solidarity at European and international level.

The EU and NATO both expressed concerns over possible global repercussions. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, declared the case has "huge implications for Europe's fight against piracy".

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged the dispute could have a negative impact on major operations against piracy, especially against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Italy seemed to be looking now for more support from the UN, in handling the case as a global issue. Italian parliament put on hold the funding decree for Italian military international missions on Wednesday, and Bonino said EU diplomats in New York would raise the matter with the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the next days. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/JSD

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