The Hague: Italy asked an international arbitration panel Wednesday to order India to free a marine who has been detained since 2012 because of his alleged involvement in the shooting deaths of two fishermen during an anti-piracy operation.
Italy's ambassador to the Netherlands, Francesco Azzarello, told the Permanent Court of Arbitration that Sgt. Salvatore Girone should be allowed to return home immediately, saying "he is obliged to live thousands of kilometers away from his country and family, with two children still at a tender age."
Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were assigned to anti-piracy duty to protect an Italian oil tanker, the Enrica Lexie, off India's coast at the time of the shooting.
The men were detained and had to stay in India without formal charges. Latorre has since been allowed home after suffering a stroke, but Girone remains in India, free on bail but obliged to remain in Delhi and report regularly to Indian police, Azzarello told the arbitration panel.
Italy argues the shooting occurred in international waters, that the fishermen were mistaken for pirates, and that the case should be heard in an Italian court. New Delhi insists it has jurisdiction and wants to charge both marines with murder.
The UN-mandated International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in Hamburg, Germany, last year ordered India to put on hold legal proceedings against the two marines until the Hague-based arbitration panel has ruled in the dispute.
Azzarello said that if Sgt. Girone is allowed to return home, Italy would abide by any order issued by the arbitration panel that he be returned to India. He argued that the marine is effectively being used as collateral in the dispute.
"A human being cannot be used as a guarantee for the conduct of a state," he said.