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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation of EU citizens under detention in India, notably Italian, Estonian and UK citizens

19.1.2016 - (2016/2522(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure

Indrek Tarand, Jean Lambert, Karima Delli, Igor Šoltes, Bodil Valero, Davor Škrlec, Ernest Urtasun, Heidi Hautala on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

Procedūra : 2016/2522(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on the situation of EU citizens under detention in India, notably Italian, Estonian and UK citizens


The European Parliament,

⎯ having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

⎯ having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

⎯ having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the additional protocols thereto,

⎯ having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

⎯ having regard to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,

⎯ having regard to the Montreux Document of 17 September 2008,

⎯ having regard to the written answer of 5 October 2015 given by the Vice-President/ the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament,

⎯ having regard to its resolution of 10 May 2012 on maritime piracy,

⎯ having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,


A. whereas on 12 October 2013, the 35-strong crew (including 14 Estonians and 6 Britons) of the US-registered and privately-owned ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio, were arrested in Tamil Nadu accused of illegally possessing weapons in Indian waters;

B. whereas the crew was openly on anti-piracy duties, carried out no aggressive acts against Indian citizens and have consistently denied any wrongdoing;

C. whereas on 10 July 2014 the Madras High Court dismissed the charges against the crew and armed guards;

D. whereas on 1 July 2015, the Indian Supreme Court, after having received an appeal filed by a local police branch against the 2014 judgment, announced that it would not accept the case for consideration and consequently returned the case to the Trial Court of Tamil Nadu; whereas the men have been unable to leave India or work during this period;

E. whereas both EU countries involved have been calling for the early return of their citizens, mentioning their families' financial hardships and mental anguish, and the concern about the crew members' mental and physical health;

E. whereas on 12 January 2016 each of the 35 sailors and guards were given the maximum sentence of 5-years “rigorous imprisonment” and fined 3,000 rupees (€40); whereas the men are now in Palayamokotti Prison, Tamil Nadu (where most of the prisoners are serving life-time sentences);

F. whereas this turn of events has evoked surprise and consternation from many quarters;

G. whereas AdvanFort, the US company who had employed the crew, has previously called on the Indian government to release the men, saying that any arms and ammunition aboard the ship were used solely to safeguard commercial ships against piracy and were stored legally;

H. whereas Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) CEO David Hammond has also stated that 'this appears to be a travesty of justice for the ordinary crew-members who we understand were not aware of instructions being passed down from the employer, and who were otherwise simply doing their job';

I. whereas David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, made a personal appeal for release of the crew in late 2015 to Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India;

J. whereas on 10 May 2012 Parliament adopted a resolution on maritime piracy, paragraph 30 of which states that 'on the high seas, according to international law, in all cases including actions taken in the fight against piracy, the national jurisdiction of the flag state applies on the ships concerned, as well as to the military staff deployed on board' and notes that 'no arrest or detention of a ship may be ordered, even as a measure of investigation, by any authorities other than those of the flag state';

1. Expresses understanding for India’s concern and sensitivity in relation to private armed militias;

2. notes that the personnel involved were engaged in anti-piracy duties, that on-board protection teams, of which they were part, have proved to be one of the more effective anti-piracy measures and that it would be in the interest of the international community to allow them to operate under a clear legal framework respected by all states;

3. Deplores the serious delay and transparency issues in the proceedings of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio crew;

6. Expresses great dismay at the excessively harsh verdict reached with regards to the MV Seaman Guard Ohio crew by the Tuticorin District Principal Sessions Court on 11 January 2016;

7. Expresses concern at the treatment of the convicted crew in local prisons and the details of the outstanding 'rigorous imprisonment';


8. Calls on India to respect its obligations enshrined in a series of human rights charters, treaties and conventions that it has signed up to;

9. Strongly asks for the MV Seaman Guard Ohio British and Estonian crew members to be allowed to return to their homeland as soon as possible, in order to minimize the adverse effects on those involved and their families;

10. Supports the affected Member States' efforts to find a solution to the cases, but believes that the EU also has a duty to step in to protect the rights of its citizens;

11. Urges the VP/HR, Federica Mogherini, in close cooperation with the Member States concerned, to take all necessary action in order to seek a satisfactory resolution of the case as a matter of urgency;

12. Notes the loosely regulated practices surrounding private anti-piracy missions; encourages India, in this respect, to sign on to the Montreux Document of 18 September 2008 which defines how international law applies to the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) when they are operating in an armed conflict zone and contains a set of good practices designed to help states take measures nationally in order to fulfil their obligations under international law;

13. Calls on the Commission and the Council to treat this case with the utmost importance in their bilateral relations with India;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Government and Parliament of India.