Italy has tired of delays in bringing to trial in India two Italian marines accused of firing on and killing two fishermen while guarding an oil tanker against piracy attack.
On 26 June, the Italian foreign ministry announced that it had invoked an international arbitration procedure under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
A statement said the procedure had been invoked at the conclusion of direct negotiations with the Indian authorities and because of an inability to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion to the standoff.
The immediate motive for the Italian decision was an announcement by the Supreme Court in New Delhi that the starting date for their trial, fixed for 7 July, was again being postponed.
In February 2012, Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, part of a vessel protection detachment on board Italian-flagged tanker Enrica Lexie, allegedly opened fire on the fishing vessel St Antony, killing two Indian fishermen. They were remanded to judicial custody on charges of homicide.
The case has sparked a conflict of opinions over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity between the governments of India and Italy, leading to diplomatic tension between the two.
Girone is reported to have been living in a room in the Italian embassy in New Delhi since 2012 while awaiting trial. Latorre suffered a stroke in August last year and was returned to Italy on compassionate leave. In April, the Indian Supreme Court extended his leave of absence on medical grounds to 15 July.