Germany Slams Ruling Allowing Victims of Nazism to Sue Germany in Italian Courts

The Italian constitutional court overruled a 2012 UN court decision that private individuals could not sue a foreign state.

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The graves of Italians who died in German captivity during WWII.
The graves of Italians who died in German captivity during WWII.Credit: AFP

Germany has angrily rejected a decision by the Italian constitutional court that victims of Nazi-era war crimes can sue Germany in Italian courts.

"The claims against Germany filed in the courts of other countries are utterly inadmissible," German foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli said on Friday.Her statement was reported by the German news website The Local.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague, the highest judicial body of the United Nations, ruled in 2012 that private individuals could not take foreign states to court, including for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the Italian court ruled last week that the UN court's decision did not overrule Italian law.

"State immunity results from the International Court's decision," Chebli said. That's the rule."

Germany is facing a growing number of cases in foreign courts filed by the descendants of civilians massacred by the Nazis or those forcibly sent to Germany as forced laborers during the war.

The head of an organization of former Italian resistance fighters, welcomed the constitutional court's decision to "reestablish the full right of Italian courts to rule on such questions."

However, Carlo Smuraglia said in a statement on Friday that he was "under no great illusion" that Germany would abide by any future compensation claims if they were made in Italian courts.

Italy was occupied by German forces in 1943 after dictator Benito Mussolini was removed from power. An estimated 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner, deported to Germany and used as forced labor. The Germans referred to them as Italian military internees and denied them prisoner of war status. Tens of thousands of them died in captivity.

Italy insists that the victims of Nazi war crimes are entitled to reparations and are within their rights to sue Germany.

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