Last week, the Italian Supreme Court declared a law that ruled that states are immune from civil law suits for war crimes and crimes against humanity unconstitutional. The law was promulgated in 2013 so as to implement a 2012 decision by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which stated that Italian courts did not have jurisdiction over the crimes Germany committed in Italy during the Second World War.
According to the law, Italian Courts had to reject law suits from Italians who were deported to camps or who had suffered in Nazi massacres and wanted to obtain compensation.
“The principle of states immunity from civil law suits which is normally recognized by international law does not apply in our legal system when the states’ acts involve war crimes and crimes against humanity which trample on fundamental human rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution,” reads the decision of the Italian Supreme Court.
The decision has been defined as “historic” and “full of moral value” by the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna. “This decision provides justice to the victims of persecution and genocide and to their descendants. It forces all states to face up to their responsibilities and to respect the values stated in the Charter that Italy issued in 1948, after the defeat of the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships which had adopted racism and the systematic extermination of entire populations. This decision is one more step towards freedom and equality for all people and towards removing any potential obstacles to justice.”