24/08/2015 4:57 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

UN Court Rules India Has No Right To Punish Italian Marines

VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
(FILES) In this photograph taken on December 22, 2012, Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (R) and Salvatore Girone (L) arrive at Ciampino airport near Rome, on December 22, 2012. India's Supreme Court ruled February 22, 2013 that two Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen while guarding an oil tanker could return home to cast their votes in upcoming national elections. The marines are suspected of shooting dead two fishermen off India's southwestern coast near the port city of Kochi in February 2012, when a fishing boat came close to the Italian oil tanker they were guarding. AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO/ FILES (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

In a major disappointment to India, a UN tribunal today asked both India and Italy to suspend all legal cases connected to the Italian Marines case. It has instead asked both countries to submit an initial report on the incident by September 24. Italy had approached the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS) challenging Indian jurisdiction in the case.

On Monday, the 21-member UN-mandated court located in Hamburg issued the order with 15 in favour and six against.

The judge said pending a decision by the arbitral tribunal, "Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings and shall refrain from initiating new ones which might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted to the... arbitral tribunal or might jeopardise or prejudice the carrying out of any decision which the arbitral tribunal may render."

He further said, "Italy and India shall each submit to the Tribunal the initial report...not later than 24 September 2015, and authorises the President, after that date, to request such information from the Parties as he may consider appropriate."

India had asked the UN tribunal to reject Italy's plea, and instead allow India to assume full jurisdiction in the case where the two marines, on board the oil tanker "Enrica Lexie", had allegedly shot dead two unarmed Indian fishermen in February 2012. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone had apparently mistaken the two fishermen off the Kerala coast as pirates, Italian authorities have said.

According to an NDTV report, India's representative told the UN tribunal that the marines "used automatic weapons without warning and shot the fishermen in the head and stomach...This case is not covered by Article 97 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but (is) rather a double murder at sea."

The UN tribunal order means that India's Supreme Court will not be able to pursue the matter for now.

(with PTI inputs)

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