Italy calls for ‘functional immunity’ for marines

Brussels/Rome, April 2: Italy Wednesday called upon the international community to emphasise the principle of ‘functional immunity’ for two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012.

The marines should be exempt from prosecution in India because they are servicemen who were working on a mission, ANSA reported citing Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

Functional immunity protects state officials from the jurisdiction of other states as they perform actions while on duty.

The minister said the two marines were not in India for private reasons but ‘on duty’.

“The recognition of such a dimension is extremely important,” Mogherini said in comments on the case on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of killing the two Indian fishermen after allegedly mistaking them for pirates.

Rome is seeking international arbitration in the case, arguing it is not under Indian jurisdiction as the incident occurred outside the country’s territorial waters.

Mogherini said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had already acknowledged that functional immunity is important.

Italy has long attempted to win international support in the case.

The Supreme Court in India had March 27 sought response from the federal government on the petition filed by the two marines challenging the jurisdiction of NIA to prosecute and probe the case.

This came after the marines moved the Supreme Court, informing that the Indian government had decided to withdraw their prosecution under the stringent anti-piracy law that attracts death penalty as maximum punishment.

In February, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said their case could have “negative implications” for the fight against piracy and could not be treated as a bilateral issue.

IANS