Germany has filed a lawsuit against Italy before the Hague International Court of Justice over a long-running dispute regarding World War II reparations between the two countries. Berlin said Rome had repeatedly violated a 2012 ruling by the Hague-based court, which decided that foreign courts could not hear cases in which victims demanded compensation for war crimes committed by Nazi Germany.
According to the German lawsuit, local Italian courts have filed about 25 new lawsuits against Germany since 2012 for Nazi atrocities.
In most cases, the courts have ruled that Berlin must compensate the victims. For Germany, it has suddenly become more urgent to close the case. The government is worried that an Italian court may decide by May 25 whether to sell some German-owned properties in Rome. The buildings would be auctioned off as planned, and the proceeds would be used to compensate the victims of war criminals.
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“I am convinced that the issue of war reparations from Germany will be raised at the most appropriate moment,” declared head of the parliamentary team for reparations, PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk
The Rome estates are also home to cultural, historical and educational institutions, including the Goethe Institute in Italy, the German Archaeological Institute in Rome which dates back to 1829, and the German Historical Institute in the Italian capital dating back to 1888.
According to the German side, Italy has breached its obligation to respect Germany’s sovereign immunity. A 2012 ruling by the International Court of Justice found that Germany has already complied with its obligation to compensate for crimes committed in Italy during the Nazi regime, so judgments in favor of individuals in such cases against Germany are invalid under the principle of sovereign immunity.
However, in 2014, the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that the principle of state immunity did not apply to war crimes or crimes against humanity, meaning that victims of the Nazi government, along with their relatives, could continue to sue Germany for damages, and rules excluding such lawsuits were unconstitutional.
The dispute between the two countries began in 2008 when Italy’s Supreme Court ruled Germany would have to pay €1 million to the relatives of nine people who were slaughtered by the German army in Civitella, Tuscany, in 1944, along with about 200 others.