- India has accused Chief Master Sergeant Latorre and Sergeant Girone — marines on board the MV Enrica Lexie, an Italian flagged oil tanker sailing from Sri Lanka towards Djibouti — of shooting dead two Indian fishermen at sea, approximately 20.5 nautical miles off Kerala in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The incident happened on February 15, 2012.
- The unarmed victims aboard the fishing vessel St Antony were killed without warning, India has said. The marines defended that they had mistaken the fishermen for pirates.
What is the core legal dispute?
- It stems from India exercising criminal jurisdiction over the two Italians by filing a murder case and arresting them.
- While India maintained that the incident happened in Indian waters and also the fishermen killed were Indian, and hence the case must be tried as per its laws, Italy claimed that the shooting took place outside Indian territorial waters and its marines were on-board the ship with the Italian flag.
- In July 2015, Italy took the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, an independent judicial body established under UNCLOS. The ITLOS referred the matter to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an intergovernmental organisation based in The Hague in Netherlands.
Why in News?
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration has delivered its award in the Enrica Lexie case.
- The tribunal admitted that both India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction in the matter but concluded that the marines cannot be prosecuted due to the official immunity enjoyed by them.
- In India’s favour, the PCA found that the Italian vessel had violated the right and freedom of navigation of the Indian fishing vessel under UNCLOS, and that the action, which caused loss of lives, property and harm, merited compensation. It asked the parties to consult each other on the compensation due to India as a result.
- The Centre said the tribunal that it has taken a decision to accept and abide by the Award.
- India being a Party to the UNCLOS, in accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS and the Rules of Procedure agreed by the Parties, the Award is final and without appeal and shall be complied with by the parties to the dispute.
- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, is an international treaty which was adopted and signed in 1982. The Convention was formed to ensure freedom of shipping navigation at the sea.
- The Convention has created three new institutions on the international scene :
- the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,
- the International Seabed Authority,
- the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
- India is party to UNCLOS.
- UNCLOS classifies marine areas into five zones. They are:
- Territorial sea
- Contiguous zone
- Exclusive economic zone
- Continental shelf
- High Sea
- According to UNCLOS, the territorial sea can be defined as the area which extends up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a country’s coastal state. The territorial sea is under the jurisdiction of that particular country; however, foreign ships (both merchant and military) ships are allowed passage through it.
- This type of passage of territorial passage of foreign ships is known as an innocent passage. However, the right to the innocent passage can be suspended if there is a threat to the security of the coastal state.
- The contiguous zone can be defined as the belt which extends 12 nautical miles beyond the territorial sea limit.
- A coastal state’s control on this area is limited to prevention of actions which can infringe its customs, fiscal, and immigration laws. It can also act if any activity in the contiguous zone threatens regulations in the territorial sea.
- The exclusive economic zone can be defined as a belt of water which extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the coastal state. Thus it includes both territorial sea and contiguous zone.
- The exclusive economic zone provides the coastal state control over all economic resources such as fishing, mining, oil exploration, and marine research.
- The coastal state also has jurisdiction regarding protection and preservation of natural resources and marine environment.
- The continental shelf can be defined as the area whose outer limit shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baseline or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2500 meters isobath.
- Isobath is a line connecting points of equal underwater depth.
- The coastal state has exclusive rights for exploring and exploiting its natural resources in this area. The state also has the exclusive rights to authorize and regulate drilling on the shelf for all purposes.
- High seas can be defined as the part of the sea that is not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea, or in the internal waters of a coastal state or archipelagic waters of an archipelagic state.
- High seas are open to all states for freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, freedom to construct artificial islands installation, freedom of fishing, and freedom of scientific research.
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration was established by the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 during the first Hague Peace Conference.
- The 1899 Convention was revised at the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907.
- The PCA is not a court in the traditional sense but provides services of an arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states, international organizations or private parties.
- The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.
- The PCA has no sitting judges: the parties themselves select the arbitrators.
- The PCA is an official United Nations Observer. It is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
- The PCA has 122 Contracting Parties which have acceded to one or both of the PCA’s founding conventions (1899 and 1907 Conventions).
- India is a party to the PCA according to the convention of 1899.