A Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the application of anti-piracy laws by India in the Enrica Lexie case

SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 191st MEETING, 13 February 2014

On 13 February 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, intervened before the Senate on the Enrica Lexie case. She expressed Italy’s serious concerns on the application of Indian anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation, which would run against the international efforts in fighting piracy. Moreover, the Minister criticised the stance taken by the UN Secretary-General, according to whom the dispute should be settled on a bilateral basis. The Minister eventually stressed that both NATO and the EU shared Italy’s concerns and supported the internationalisation of the dispute. She stated:

As for NATO, the Secretary-General just confirmed yesterday his sharing of our concerns and warnings in relation to the impact that the case of our marines might have on the entire framework of anti-piracy operations.

Thus, the reply given last Monday to a journalist by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, according to whom a negotiation on a bilateral basis of the marines case would be preferable to the involvement of the UN, despite not being new in its content, raised serious concerns and our greatest regret. The Secretary-General’s response is undoubtedly consistent with the traditional UN approach to judicial disputes between two Member States – a response, perhaps, where a misinterpreted consideration of impartiality toward two important members of the United Nations outbalances the attention that is due to the legal questions and matters of principle raised by Italy.

The point is, however, that the SUA Act, or its use as a ground for the indictment, had a substantial effect on the dispute. I dare to say – with all the respect that Italy has toward the United Nations system, which, moreover, I have always personally and frankly supported – that affirming at this point that such a case is a dispute between States is an irrelevant truism. And I believe that the reason is clear: the ongoing anti-piracy operations, in which we are taking part as our marines did, are grounded on several conventions on terrorism signed under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as on resolutions of the Security Council. These resolutions and these conventions are not only based on the common necessity to fight effectively piracy and terrorism, but also on the no less important necessity to prevent abuses and divergent interpretations of the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist”. These notions are often used extensively, if not in an outright abusive way; it would thus be appropriate to establish a multilateral monitoring on the way national legislations in this field are interpreted and enforced.

What is more, we are no more the only ones to raise such concerns. Following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council that was held last Monday, the European Union took the field to support Italy against the threat of an abuse of a legal framework which risks to jeopardise the entire anti-piracy international action. In this respect, too, I think that the response of the Secretary-General leaves something to be desired, as on this specific point we are not dealing any longer with a divergence or a dispute between Members of the United Nations, but with a critical mass of States, including four Members of the Security Council (two of which permanent Members), which raises a fundamental matter of principle.

She continued by saying that:

Italy has always coherently held the view that the case of the marines trespasses the ambit of bilateral relations, since it concerns the compliance with international law, including the principles of freedom of navigation, exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State, immunity of State agents acting in their official capacity, and the efforts of the international community in the fight against piracy. In fact, I reassert that our marines were taking part in an anti-piracy mission in accordance with international law, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Italian legislation enacting international anti-piracy norms, as the Government has affirmed in international fora. Therefore, we have constantly rejected the legitimacy of the jurisdiction of Indian judges and we have reiterated on several occasions that this jurisdiction is being exercised in contravention of the United Nations conventions on the law of the sea and of customary rules on functional immunity of State officials.

It is on the basis of these very considerations that, following the request of application of the SUA Act, we have further increased our pressures on the UN and, while since January we had decided to raise human rights concerns by means of an action before the High Commissioner, Ms Pillay, whom I am in touch with and will soon meet again in Geneva, as soon as the application of the SUA Act started being considered, we reacted strongly, as we are sure that this element goes far beyond the bilateral sphere.

Finally, she declared:

It is no more, it cannot be anymore a mere bilateral dispute, since what is at stake are the basic principles of the rule of law, and the application of anti-terrorism conventions and two Security Council resolutions authorising both the Atalanta operation (run by the EU) and the one named Ocean Shield .

The original Italian version of this speech can be downloaded here or found at www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/BGT/00747740.pdf.

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