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Germany has legal immunity over war claims


The UN's highest court confirmed yesterday that Germany has legal immunity from being sued in foreign courts by victims of Second World War Nazi atrocities.

The International Court of Justice said that Italy's Supreme Court violated Germany's sovereignty in 2008 by judging that an Italian civilian, Luigi Ferrini, was entitled to reparations for his deportation to Germany in 1944 to work as a slave labourer. Germany argued that the Italian ruling threw into doubt a restitution system put in place after the Nazis' defeat that has seen Germany pay tens of billions of dollars in reparations.

The court said in a 12-3 ruling that the Italian case violated Germany's long-standing immunity from being sued in national courts. Rulings by the International Court of Justice are binding. German representatives argued that if the court sided with Italy, it would open floodgates for restitution claims by individuals around the world, a situation it tried to avoid in negotiating reparation accords with Israel and with countries that had been occupied during the war.