Nazi crimes victims before Italian courts a 'last resort'

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Italian victims of Nazi war crimes turned to domestic courts as a last resort to get compensation from Germany, more than six decades after the end of World War II, the UN's top court heard Tuesday.

"After more than six decades, recourse to Italian justice seems to be the only means, the only remaining channel in order to obtain any form of reparation after all other channels have been irrevocably closed to them," Luigi Condorelli, part of the Italian legal team, told the International Court of Justice.

Germany asked the Hague-based court Monday to order Italy to stop civil courts from accepting claims for Third Reich war crimes, saying by doing so, Italy was "infringing on German sovereign immunity".

Berlin lodged its application before the ICJ in December 2008, saying that by permitting claims for abuses which happened between September 1943 and May 1945, Italy "failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity" that modern-day Germany enjoys under international law.

But Giacomo Aiello, another part of the Italian team, told the court that "state immunity cannot be regarded as absolute".

"In this case, we are asking the court to recognise exceptional cases in which the denial of immunity is justified as a last resort... in order to ensure that the principles of international law are respected," he added.

This included Italians and their relatives who were victims of forced labour, prisoners of war and those slain in massacres, he said.

"Germany ... has adopted a stance that still denies Italian victims access to justice," added Salvatore Zappala, Italy's legal representative to the United Nations.

"States cannot absolve themselves from the responsibility of reparations for serious violations of humanitarian law," he added.

Third Reich troops committed war crimes after Italy switched sides to the Allies in September 1943, including in the case of Luigi Ferrini, who was deported to Germany as a forced labourer in August 1944, court documents said.

Ferrini claimed compensation from Germany in 1998 and since an Italian Supreme Court decision in 2004 in his favour, hundreds of other claims by relatives and widows of victims of Nazi war crimes have been brought before Italian courts.

© 2011 AFP

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