Court to rule on Nazi payouts

GERMANY warned yesterday of severe consequences should its immunity as a state be breached, if the UN’s highest court allows Italian civil courts to rule on compensation for Nazi war crimes.

“The consequences would be severe,” the director-general for legal affairs in Germany’s foreign ministry, Susanne Wasum-Rainer, told judges of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. “Once state immunity has been perforated, there is no reason not to extend the exceptions to a range of other areas,” she told the 16-judge bench.

Germany and Italy are arguing their cases before the ICJ this week, after Berlin in December 2008 filed an application to ask the court to order Rome to stop its courts from hearing compensation claims for Third Reich war crimes. Wasum-Rainer said the whole system of victim compensation since World War II “would be put into question and opened to challenge before domestic courts.”

“All inter-state peace settlements concluded after an armed conflict will be put into jeopardy by allowing domestic courts to re-examine and reopen them.”

If domestic courts could rule on foreign states, she added, “plaintiffs would shop around for the most favourable national courts.”

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