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After Nine Years, Indian Court Closes Case of the Enrica Lexie

enrica lexie
Enrica Lexie (file image)

Published Jun 17, 2021 5:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Indian Supreme Court has confirmed a monetary award to the families of two fishermen who were allegedly shot by two Italian marines aboard the tanker Enrica Lexie in 2012. The decision brings the Indian criminal inquiry to a close, but the judges also urged a further criminal investigation by Italian police.

On February 15, 2012, the Italian-flagged oil tanker Enrica Lexie was underway and operating about 20 nm off the coast of Kerala. Two Italian marines operating as part of an embarked anti-piracy team allegedly mistook the nearby Indian fishing vessel St. Antony for a pirate craft and opened fire, killing two Indian crewmen, Ajesh Binki and Valentine (no last name given). 

The marines - Secondo Capo Salvatore Girone and his compatriot Massimiliano Latorre - were arrested by Indian authorities and charged. They were eventually allowed to return to Italy in 2014 and 2016, but wrangling over the liability continued.

Italy's government took the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, arguing that India lacked jurisdiction to prosecute a case that occurred on the high seas aboard an Italian-flagged vessel. The court noted that the consequences occurred aboard an Indian-flagged vessel, and that the Indian law enforcement boarding occurred after the Enrica Lexie's master navigated into Indian territorial waters. However, it also found that the marines were state officials of Italy, and were therefore immune to Indian prosecution under international law.

On Tuesday, India's Supreme Court agreed to close the case and approved a $1.3 million settlement payment from the Italian government for the families of the victims and the owner of the St. Antony. The court encouraged Italian authorities to pick up the criminal case against the two marines and carry it forward (as Italy had offered during the arbitral proceedings).  

"We are satisfied that the amount of 10 crores [$1.3 million] over and above ex gratia already submitted [previous out-of-court payments] can be said to be a reasonable amount of compensation and in interest of heirs. We are of the view that this is a fit case to close all proceedings in India including criminal proceedings," the court ruled.