Showing posts with label shooting fishermen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shooting fishermen. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


  The issue of two Italian Navy guards arrested for killing fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15th,  2012 from the oil tanker, M V Enrica Lexie,  has now become the biggest diplomatic issue between Italy and India. The relation between the two nations was peaceful and cordial until this incident. A paradigm shift has now taken place to the extent of India compelled to keeping its ambassador as a hostage against the absconding Navy men and the foreign Ministry is at a loss as to handling the issue properly as there is no parallel to the case anywhere in the world.

The reason for not returning the Navy men before the Supreme Court after they were allowed to go for home to vote in the national elections held in Italy recently is said to be on the grounds that Italy considered India had no powers to Try the Navy men in India as the shooting was allegedly taken place in international waters.

It was with the permission of Supreme Court that the navy men left India and as such the Court cannot ignore a flagrant breach of promise made before it by the Italian Ambassador and the willful hindrance to the court's trial proceedings, consequently, the Court ordered the Government to be vigilant against the Italian Ambassador leaving India.  Actually there is still time for the Navy men to present themselves before the Supreme Court;  as the due date of their arrival to India is only on the 22nd this month. But Italian Government has stated prior to that date that they would not return to India, creating quite a stir in the political circles and the Prime Minister himself had to make a statement in Parliament condemning Italy in order to quell the anger of Members.

 The Italian authorities were seething with impatience from the very moment of the capture and incarceration of Navy men by Kerala Police. Various Italian Ministers visited them daily and inquired of their well being. They were in a mood to ‘get the hell out of it’ by hook or by crook as early as possible.

The Navy men arrested are no ordinary young men. They belonged to Italy’s prestigious and highly decorated San Marco Regiment established way back in 1713 and Italy cannot think of them languishing in an Indian Jail for doing, what Italy thinks, their duty. Italy thought that once the trial and punishment was over they could take back the Navy men to home on the strength of the extradition treaty signed by the two countries. But the trial procedures painfully continued.

As for the Marines, they could not have chosen a worse place than the Kerala Coast to show off their bravery.The men who died were Catholic fishermen and the fishermen community, by and large, belonged to Catholic sect which has an Italian connexion. Kerala has predominant communist presence and they will not sit still once they got a matter connected to Italy as the President of their rival party, Indian National Congress, is Italian-born Sonia Gandhi which makes the Congress men to go an extra mile to show that they were not giving any undue favor to Italians and it worked against the Navy men. In short the two Italian marines made the small state hyper active in religious, political and diplomatic circles for sometime.

The Navy men were arrested in February 2012 and two months after, the Italian Government paid a full and final ex-gratia payment of one Crore rupees, around two hundred thousand Dollars, each to the next of kin of the deceased fishermen. Though the families’ bereavement can never be compensated with any sum of money, it was a fair deal and the fishermen were satisfied with the compensation and became inactive in further court actions.

It seems that the Italians thought that payment of compensation might speed up matters. The criminal aspects of the case continued hearings in court. The Italians could not wait any more and precipitated the matter to the point of holding back the prisoners and boycotting the trial in India.

The next hearing of the case is on April 2nd. It is also possible that Italians changed mind and produced the Navy men on the appointed date and paved way for a logical settlement.

Images google

Friday, February 24, 2012


An Italian oil Tanker, Enrica Lexie,  which was travelling from Singapore to Egypt on 15Th of this month found a (fishing)  Trawler, St. Anthony, within the shooting range. There were armed guards to the oil tanker which has now become a standard practice to appoint some in ships since pirates' attack against ships are on the increase. (Actually it is a serious matter to enter in another country with ballistics). The armed guards in the Enrica Lexie  shot at the fishing trawler mistaking it as a pirates' vessel and two fisher men died, one on the spot and the other a little time later.

The right procedure in such a situation is the guards to inform Captain about the suspicious ship and captain alert the (Indian)coast guards who have all the facilities to verify the ship and if necessary to reach on the spot in a matter of few minutes. The ship was travelling in the  Indian waters just 26 nautical miles off Neendakara port and the time was about 4.30 in the evening  with clear sun light.

  Obviously the armed guards in the ship knew nothing of the maritime laws and procedures except to fire on passing  vessels like pirates.

The ship continued its journey .  The poor fishermen informed the Kerala Police about the shooting and they alerted the coast guard who made the ship to turn back to Cochin port. The police had a difficult time in convincing the Captain that they had erred and made a criminal offence by killing two fishermen in cold blood.  Nevertheless  the Police arrested the guards, charged them with murder and.produced them before Magistrate who directed the police to keep the guards in remand.

There were incidents of Indian fishermen killed in the Sri Lankan waters as they stray in to that zone inadvertently but an incident of fishermen getting killed nearby the land like this is the first time in India and as result of it the entire country, especially Kerala, felt so strongly about it that it soon became a diplomatic issue between Italy and India.The Deputy foreign Minister visited Kerala and discussed the matter with the Kerala Police chief. Also the Indian Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the Italian Ambassador.The case is in the court  and the Italian side wants the murder charges levelled against the guards  withdrawn  and  their position is that the incident occurred in international waters. and cannot be tried in India.. An higher court has not accepted  it.and the case is going on.

The Government of Kerala will give a consolation aid of five Lakh rupees to one victim who is Keralite and a similar amount will give to the other victim who is a Tamilian by the Tamil Nadu Government.

 On the flip side, the Italian Government took quick and efficient action on the matter and it is commendable that an entire Government machinery was spared to work so earnestly to rescue two of its citizens.The Italians even handed over a list of food the remanded guards preferred  and also noted  the  comfort of the guards and the accommodation given to them.  I think India need to take note of it as an example since many Indians are languishing in various jails abroad and most of them can be got freed if the Government strongly argued  for them in right earnest.

Latest: The case is still in the court and the Guards in the Indian custody. Meanwhle the ship gave One crore rupees (about two hundred thousand Dollars)  for each victim's  family and they withdrew case from the court. Now the case is between Government of India and the Italian Government. The ship was allowed to leave the port.