MARCH 18, 2013 — The Indian Supreme Court has extended travel restrictions on Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini for another week. This apparently flagrant breach of the norms of diplomatic immunity is the latest escalation in a confrontation that began in February 2012 when two Italian marines were remanded to police custody by an Indian magistrate (see earlier story).
Italian marines at time of original detention in India last year
The two - named as Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone - were part of a six member security team provided by the Italian government to protect the Italian-flag 104,255 dwt tanker Enrico Lexie against pirates. On February 15, off the coast of Kerala, two Indian fishermen - Valentine Jalastine and Ajeesh Binki- were shot and killed when their vessel approached the tanker. Italian officials said the fishing boat had behaved aggressively and ignored warning shots.
The two were allowed to return home for the Christmas holidays, after which they returned to India and went back to jail.
More recently, reports the New York Times, Mr. Mancini asked for permission for the men to return to Italy for four weeks to vote in that country’s elections, and he signed an affidavit promising that they would return.
"Last week," says the Times, "Mr. Mancini formally reneged on that promise, saying the marines would not return. In response, the Indian Supreme Court issued an alert to airports barring Mr. Mancini from leaving the country."
"The question," says the Times, "is whether Mr. Mancini surrendered his diplomatic immunity in the matter when he filed his affidavit promising the marines’ return, as he may very well have."
Read the New York Times story HERE
Meantime, for the shipping world and national governments, the case raises the interesting question of whether protecting ships from piracywith armed guards from a flag state's armed forces is such a good idea, after all. Mercenaries are much more deniable and disposable.