International Conference “Remedies against Immunity? – Reconciling International and Domestic Law after the Italian Constitutional Court’s Sentenza 238/2014”
11 – 13 May 2017 Villa Vigoni, Como Lake, Italy
The Italian Constitutional Court’s judgment 238/2014 created a legal and political deadlock between Germany and Italy. In its ruling the Court refused to accord Germany immunity from Italian jurisdiction in civil proceedings on the compensation of World War II victims and thus indirectly challenged the 2012 judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which had upheld Germany’s entitlement to state immunity. Since 2015 a series of judgments by several Italian courts have given new life to the case. Courts in Florence, Piacenza and Rome ordered Germany to make reparations to Italian deportation victims and their heirs. Germany, in turn, contends that its state immunity bars the Italian courts’ jurisdiction and refuses to appear before the Italian courts. Numerous similar cases are currently pending.
Judgment 238/2014 exemplifies the tension between state immunity as one of the core rules of international law on the one hand and universal human rights, including a potential right to remedy, on the other. More than two years after the Sentenza, a solution balancing these antagonistic concerns does not seem to be in sight. Apart from the conflict between state immunity and human rights protection, the judgment raises further theoretical questions concerning the relationship between international law and domestic law, the role of domestic courts in the formation and change of international customary law, as well as the separation of powers in a democratic state.
It is against this backdrop that the conference brings together German and Italian academics in an expert forum aimed at jointly analysing and discussing Judgment 238/2014 both from an international and constitutional law perspective. The idea is to put academic expertise at the service of interstate dispute resolution and to suggest novel ideas to the political and judicial stakeholders who will participate in the final day of the conference. The conference offers the opportunity to engage in an exercise of ‘academic diplomacy’ and to work in concert to overcome the given challenge in a way that strengthens the partnership between the two countries and their shared European horizon.