[JURIST] Germany filed a lawsuit [ICJ press release, PDF] against Italy in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] Tuesday in a bid to block new claims for personal damages resulting from Nazi actions in World War II. Germany is arguing that an October decision [JURIST report] by Italy's Court of Cassation [official website, =Italian] which ordered Germany to pay 1 million euros (USD $1.3 million) in damages to relatives of civilians killed in the town of Civitella during the war, violated the principle of state immunity [DW report]. In its application to the court, Germany asserted:
In recent years, Italian judicial bodies have repeatedly disregarded the jurisdictional immunity of Germany as a sovereign State. The critical stage of that development was reached by the judgment of the Corte di Cassazione of 11 March 2004 in the Ferrini case, where [that court] declared that Italy held jurisdiction with regard to a claim . . . brought by a person who during World War II had been deported to Germany to perform forced labour in the armaments industry. After this judgment had been rendered, numerous other proceedings were instituted against Germany before Italian courts by persons who had also suffered injury as a consequence of the armed conflict.
The Ferrini judgment was later confirmed by other Italian court rulings, including the October decision. Germany is concerned that additional lawsuits may be brought against it.
In October the Court of Cassation awarded the damages [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] in a case against Max Josef Milde, a German sergeant present at the Civitella attack, who was sentenced in absentia to life in prison. Under Italian law, crime victims may seek civil damages as part of a criminal proceeding. Germany had argued that the 1961 Bonn Treaty, where Germany agreed to pay 40 billion marks to Italy for war crimes committed, closed all further financial compensation claims, but the Italian court held the treaty only applied to treatment of the Jews. International agreements that govern situations in which a nation may claim immunity include the European Convention on State Immunity [text], ratified by members of the Council of Europe in 1972, and the UN Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property [text], adopted in 2004.