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Italians Can’t Sue Germany Over Nazi Massacre, UN Court Rules

Germany can’t be prosecuted by private citizens seeking war crimes damages, the International Court of Justice said, rejecting an Italian ruling awarding compensation to relatives of World War II atrocity victims.

Germany appealed an Italian court decision ordering it to compensate relatives of people killed in a 1944 Nazi attack, saying Italy didn’t respect the principle of legal immunity for states from prosecution by private citizens.

Italy’s Court of Cassation denied “Germany the immunity to which the court has held that it was entitled under customary international law,” the United Nations court in The Hague said in a statement today.

Members of a German army division killed 203 civilian hostages in Civitella in Val di Chiana, in Tuscany, in June 1944 after resistance fighters attacked four German soldiers. The Italian Court of Cassation’s 2008 ruling widened a private claim from relatives against a surviving former German army officer to apply to the German government.

Germany has already paid reparations under international treaties with Italy and feared “hundreds of additional cases” may be brought against it, the German government said in its 2008 court filing.

The UN court today also overruled an Italian court decision ordering Germany to pay compensation to the relatives of the victims of the Distomo massacre in Greece in 1944, in which 218 villagers were killed.

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