H.E.Mr Daniele Mancini
Ambassador of Italy to India
On the Italian gunmen
I am writing this to you as an ordinary citizen working on multilateral treaties to convey that the Italian government’s decision not to fulfill the commitment it has made through you to the highest judiciary of India and your continued ill-reading of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) represent a grave infraction of the rule of international laws and time-tested multilaterally accepted traditions. It is my fervent hope, your excellency, that your government has not returned to the creed of fascismo or the pervasive Italian mafia has not taken over the business of national governance.
I was puzzled by your statement that the crime committed by the gunmen could be addressed as per Article 100 of the UNCLOS. I seriously doubt if you have read the treaty before making such a claim. While Article 100 commits States to cooperate in the repression of piracy on the high seas and in areas beyond national jurisdiction, Article 101 defines what is piracy and here I quote:
‘Article 101Definition of piracy
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the
passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b)’.
In case you made the proposal after reading the Article 101, you are obviously accusing the innocent victims who were fishing in India’s Territorial Waters as being pirates, and that your excellency is a crime in itself.
The whole series of arguments your government has been making have been perverted, and entirely misleading about the well-meaning international laws. If the ship was not in the Territorial Waters as you have argued, then it was certainly in the Contiguous Zone. Under UNCOLS, a foreign vessel has only a right of ‘innocent passage’ through the Territorial Waters and the Contiguous Zone. And as per Article 19 explaining the meaning of innocent passage the treaty stipulates that ‘any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind’ by a foreign ship shall be considered to be ‘prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State’ and hence shall not constitute innocent passage. And Article 27.1.a categorically states that the criminal jurisdiction of the coastal State prevails ‘if the consequences of the crime extend to the coastal State’. The simple and glaringly obvious fact that the coastal State jurisdiction does not apply to a crime happening entirely on board the ship, without affecting anyone outside, has been deliberately misread by your government to argue that Indian jurisdiction does not apply in this case. That was laughable if not ridiculous. In the impossible event of this argument being validated, any country can send soldiers or terrorists to the coastal waters of Italy and shoot from their ship at all possible targets and Italy will have to node to the jurisdiction of the flag State addressing this. Fortunately, international treaties are not framed to endanger national sovereignty in such manner, but indeed to protect it and that is what UNCLOS does too.
It was also interesting that you have raised the claim of protection of the gunmen under the Geneva Convention as PoW, which actually meant that their crime was an act of war. Our government should actually have proceeded along those lines.
Even as you are venturing to go to unfortunate extents to protect the criminal gunmen, innocent Italians in India who have been visited by misfortune have been ignored by yourself and your government. When Italian citizens Mr Bosusco Paola and Mr Claudio Colangelo were abducted in Orissa in March last year your government did virtually nothing, in comparison to the huge risks you are taking on behalf of the gunmen, to seek their release. An elderly Italian Mr Sebastiano Roserio Contiguglia had to die in Cuttak city two months ago as he could not afford to get adequate medical care. And remember your excellency, it was the Indian National Human Rights Commission of India and the state High Court that have asked for reports on the death of this Italian, the same judicial system that you seek to dishonour. Yourself or your government was nowhere to help this hapless Italian. Perhaps the tax paying Italian public is not aware of your double standards in dealing with Italian citizens abroad.
We all believe that the accused gunmen should not have been allowed to leave the country, given the ridiculous manner in which you were trying to handle the issue. I for one believed that the Italian government cannot be trusted and you proved me right. Your act of refusal to return the accused to India is an act of subversion of international laws and multilateral norms upon which the community of civilized nations conduct business. I must say tell you that this behavior is not characteristic of a legitimately constituted government, and you must immediately reverse your erroneous decision and demonstrate your civility to the world.
Assuring you of my highest consideration to the office you hold,
Member: Biodiversity Convention’s Expert Group on Biodiversity and Development
Board member: CBD Alliance www.cbdalliance.org