Germany takes Italy to UN court for war damages dispute

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HAAG, The Netherlands – Germany has sued Italy at the UN Supreme Court in a long-running dispute over compensation from World War II. The International Court of Justice published the case late Friday.

The German case refers back to an earlier judgment of the UN Court of Justice in 2012, in which it confirmed that Germany has legal immunity from being sued in foreign courts by victims of Nazi atrocities. That ruling said the Italian Supreme Court violated Germany’s sovereignty in 2008 by ruling that an Italian civilian was entitled to compensation for his deportation to Germany in 1944 for working as a slave laborer.

In its new case, Germany claims that, despite this ruling, “Italian national courts have since 2012 received a significant number of new claims against Germany in violation of Germany’s sovereign immunity.”

In the case it won in 2012, Berlin claimed that the Italian Supreme Court’s decision called into question a repayment system introduced after the defeat of the Nazis, which has seen Germany pay tens of billions in compensation since the 1950s.

Germany’s new case asks judges at the Hague-based court to declare that “Italy has violated and continues to violate its obligation to respect Germany’s sovereign immunity by allowing civil claims against Germany” in connection with Nazi war crimes and by planning to auction off four German-owned properties in Rome.

The case also calls for urgent court orders – known as interim measures – including an order to ensure that German properties are “not subject to a public auction” or “additional coercive measures” pending the court’s final ruling in the case, which is likely to take years to reach.

No date was immediately set for the hearing. Decisions of the International Court of Justice are final and legally binding.

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