THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Germany argued at the United Nations’ highest court Monday that Italian courts have no right to order it to pay compensation to Nazi war victims, saying international law and peace treaties would be jeopardized if national courts had the power to override them.
Granting national courts jurisdiction over other countries would prompt would-be plaintiffs to “shop around for the most favorable national courts” and would lead to “legal disorder,” said Germany’s top legal adviser.
Germany says its sovereignty was violated when Italy’s Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that an Italian civilian, Luigi Ferrini, was entitled to restitution for his deportation to Germany in 1944 to work as slave laborer in the armaments industry.
Germany has paid tens of billions of dollars in war reparations under various international and bilateral agreements since the 1950s.
If the Italian decision stands, “the consequences would be severe,” said Susanne Wasum-Rainer, Germany’s director-general of legal affairs. The postwar system for reparations “would be put in question and open to challenges before domestic courts.”
Italy says violations of humanitarian law supersede other laws and international accords. No immunity can be accorded to crimes against humanity, it says.
The Italians courts ordered the seizure of German property to enforce the reparations decision.
Rome’s case is being supported by Greece, whose citizens have similar claims against Germany, and will be given a hearing during the week of arguments before the 15-judge World Court.
In 2008, the Italian court decided on the seizure of Villa Vigoni, a German-Italian cultural center on Lake Cuomo, to “enforce” the claims by Italians and Greeks seeking compensation. Germany’s protest against the seizure formed part of its appeal to the World Court against Italy.