The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled today that Italy has violated its obligation to respect Germany’s immunity under international law by allowing civil claims seeking reparations for Nazi war crimes to be brought against it in Italian courts.
Germany filed the case in December 2008 after a court in Italy ordered Berlin to compensate an Italian civilian sent to a German labour camp in 1944. Germany had claimed that the ruling failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity that it has a right to under international law.
It had also claimed that it had already paid reparations under international treaties with Italy and argued that as a sovereign State it has immunity in Italian courts. At the same time, it fully acknowledged the untold suffering inflicted on Italians during the war.
“The Italian Republic has violated its obligation to respect the immunity which the Federal Republic of Germany enjoys under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945,” the ICJ, also known as the World Court, stated in its judgment.
Italy has also violated Germany’s immunity by taking measures of constraint against Villa Vigoni, German State property situated in Italian territory, and by declaring enforceable in Italy decisions of Greek civil courts based on violations of international humanitarian law committed in Greece by Nazi Germany.
The Court added that Italy must ensure that the decisions of its courts and those of other judicial authorities infringing on Germany’s immunity “cease to have effect.”
Germany has paid tens of millions of dollars in reparations, under various agreements, for crimes committed during the Second World War.
Established in 1945, and based in The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICJ settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions on legal questions that have been referred to it by other authorized UN organs.