India and Italy began arguments in a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague over the custody of an Italian marine accused of shooting Indian fishermen during the Enrica Lexie incident in 2012.
Sergeant Salvatore Girone is presently detained in India on murder charges over the shooting, which resulted in the deaths of two Indian fishermen. Girone and another marine, two of the six embarked guards aboard the Italian tanker Enrica Lexie, allegedly mistook the fishermen’s approaching craft for a pirate vessel and opened fire.
Italy says that the incident occurred in international waters and that India must return Sgt. Girone to his home country. He is free on bail in New Delhi but he has been barred from leaving the country.
Indian representatives disputed the claim. "These victims were Indian nationals killed on board an Indian fishing vessel," said attorney Neeru Chadha.
The other marine present at the time of the shooting, Massimiliano Latorre, was allowed to return to Italy last year on compassionate grounds, as he had suffered a stroke. India could still request his extradition to face charges.
The dispute between Italy and India over the case has been slowly making its way through international courts. Italy sued at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ordered India to delay its criminal trial for the marines until after the Permanent Court of Arbitration's review.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said Wednesday that whatever the outcome, it would abide by the Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision.
"From technical point of view it is no longer a bilateral issue and there is an arbitration process going on now and whatever is the arbitration process both Indian and Italy have agreed to abide by, so let us await the result of the arbitration process, whatever will be the decision would be accepted by both countries," said spokesman Vikas Swarup.
The result may be a long time in coming. Italian representative Ambassador Francesco Azzarello said that the hearings could last for three to four years, leaving Girone on bail in New Delhi for the better part of a decade.