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Federal Republic of Germany v. Mantelli et al.

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Supreme Court of Cassation, Italy
Case number 14201/2008
Decision title Ordinanza
Decision date 29 May 2008
  • Federal Republic of Germany
  • M. L.
  • B. M
  • M. G. (Giovanni Mantelli)
Categories War crimes
Keywords forced labour, immunity (sovereign), reparation, war crimes, World War II
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Procedural history

In 2004, Giovanni Mantelli and 13 other Italians filed a pecuniary petition before the Tribunal of Turin.

The Tribunal of Turin was forced to suspend the proceedings after the German Government filed a petition for a preliminary ruling on jurisdiction before the Italian Court of Cassation. 

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Related developments

On 23 December 2008, Germany filed an application instituting proceedings against Italy before the International Court of Justice, arguing that '[i]n recent years, Italian judicial bodies have repeatedly disregarded the jurisdictional immunity of Germany as a sovereign State.' 

On 3 February 2012, the International Court of Justice indeed found 'that the Italian Republic ha[d] violated its obligation to respect the immunity which the Federal Republic of Germany enjoys under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945'. For more information, see this ICJ press release.

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Legally relevant facts

After the armistice between Italy and the Allied forces in 1943, hundreds of thousands of Italians were deported to Germany and forced to work. In 2004, Giovanni Mantelli and 13 other Italians (or their relatives) deported during the War filed a pecuniary petition before the Tribunal of Turin. The claimants sought material and moral damages for their suffering in the last years of WWII. 

In support of their claim, Mantelli  and others contended that Germany had recognised its responsibility with the establishment of a foundation with the aim to make payments to former WWII forced labourers, although it did not give satisfactory compensation for each prisoner. Germany claimed that under Article 34 of the 1929 Geneva Convention, it was not obliged to compensate individuals that had been held as “prisoners of war”.

The claimants relied on the Ferrini v. Germany case in their claim, in which the Italian Court of Cassation had already held that crimes of war and crimes against humanity (such as crimes of deportation and slavery) are prohibited by ius cogens.

The German Government in its petition for a preliminaryruling on jurisdiction before the Tribunal of Turin, asserted that Italian courts had no jurisdiction over the case in light of Italian obligations under the 1947 Treaty of Peace and the 1961 Bilateral Compensation Agreement for Victims of the Nazi Regime. Furthermore, the German Government claimed that Italian courts had no jurisdiction on the basis of the customary international law par in parem non habet jurisdictionem (‘legal persons of equal standing cannot have their disputes settled in the courts of one of them’), according to which foreign states enjoy immunity from civil jurisdiction with regard to acts performed iure imperii (sovereign authority).

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Court's holding and analysis

On 29 May 2008 the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that Italian courts have jurisdiction in the case.

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Related cases

Other cases related to sovereign immunity for international crimes