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Remedies against Immunity?

Reconciling International and Domestic Law after the Italian Constitutional Court’s Sentenza 238/2014

11 – 13 May 2017, Villa Vigoni, Lake Como, Italy

The Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (MPIL), the Istituto di Ricerche sulla Pubblica Amministrazione (IRPA) and Villa Vigoni, German Italian Centre for European Excellence are convening a three-day international conference to take place from 11 – 13 May 2017 at Villa Vigoni, Lake Como, Italy.


Conference’s Theme and Goals

The Sentenza 238/2014 of the Italian Constitutional Court created a legal and political deadlock between the Italian and the German Republics. In denying immunity from civil jurisdiction to the German Republic for World War II Nazi crimes, the Italian Constitutional Court indirectly challenged the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s judgment of 2012 which had confirmed the principle of State immunity. The Sentenza also warrants renewed attention because a new wave of judgments issued by several Italian courts since 2015 started giving real life to the case. Court decisions of Florence, Piacenza, and Rome ordered Germany to pay reparation to Italian victims of deportation 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.

The Sentenza 238/2014 exemplifies the tension between, on the one hand, the international rule of law and respect for one of its traditional core principles, i.e. State immunity (as embodied in the ICJ judgment) and on the other hand, the idea of universal human rights, including a potential right to remedy (as exemplified by the Constitutional Court’s insistence on access to a judge for the victims). 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 and the role of domestic courts in the formation and change of international customary law, along with the issue of separation of powers in a democratic state.

The conference envisions an Italo-German academic forum to discuss both the systemic and theoretical significance of the judgment and its progeny and concrete solutions to the impasse created by Sentenza 238/2014. The conference’s spirit shall be forward-looking and conciliatory. The event does not only aspire to stimulate an in-depth reflection on the judgment and its consequences, but also to suggest concrete legal and political responses to the stalemate. Both international and constitutional law perspectives will be espoused, with the aim of suggesting innovative ideas to the political and judicial stakeholders who will participate, as invited audience, in the conference’s last day. The idea is to engage in an exercise of ‘academic diplomacy’, putting academic expertise at the service of interstate dispute resolution and looking for possible reconciling solutions against the common European horizon.


Event Venue

The venue of the event has a deep symbolic value. Villa Vigoni is a German State property situated in Italian territory and the seat of a cultural and research centre intended to promote exchanges between Germany and Italy in the fields of culture, politics and economics. In the past, measures of constraint have been taken by Italian authorities on this property in order to ensure the payment of compensation by the German State to victims of Nazi crimes.


Design and Format

The first two days follow a genuinely academic format focusing on the major concerns and possible responses to Sentenza 238/2014 from both national and international law perspectives. In order to facilitate an open and frank discussion among the selected panellists, as well as to guarantee the necessary confidentiality, participation will be limited to speakers, discussants, chairs, and rapporteurs, along with a limited number of engaged listeners. The group of engaged listeners will be composed of PhD candidates and junior scholars who will be selected - and admitted to participate in the conference - on the basis of a public call to be published in September 2016. On the third day, the conference’s results will be made public and discussed in front of and with an enlarged audience of stakeholders. We expect to reach an audience of both German and Italian invited participants, such as judges involved in the pre-/post-Sentenza, lawmakers, diplomats, legal experts, media representatives, and civil society organizations. The conference’s third day will be recorded and is planned to be broadcasted on both traditional media and the web.


Thursday, 11th May 2017 (9.00 – 18.30):

On the inaugural day, studies and legal analysis will focus on the main consequences and possible responses to the judgment from a German perspective (Panel I), and then from an Italian perspective (Panel II). In each panel, a German and an Italian speaker will present the key legal issues raised by the Sentenza from different viewpoints. A main discussant will comment on the two talks, opening the floor for remarks and comments. Adequate time will then be devoted to the common discussion. Two rapporteurs, one for each panel, will attend both sessions, registering the main ideas and proposals emerging from the discussions in order to summarize and present them on the third day.
A keynote speech will conclude the first day.

Friday, 12th May 2017 (9.00 – 18.30):

The second day will follow a similar format, this time focusing on the implications of Sentenza 238/2014 for European law as a whole (Panel III) and for International law more generally (Panel IV). The main impact of the Sentenza at the European and international level will be discussed following the established scheme. There will be two main contributions for each panel by both a German and Italian scholar. Remarks by a main discussant will follow the speeches, triggering the common discussion. Again rapporteurs will take part in both sessions, registering main outcomes and proposals for the third day.

Saturday, 13th May 2017 (9.00 – 13.00):

The last conference day opens with a keynote speech. The four rapporteurs will then present the final proposals summarizing the outcomes of the preceding panels, concretizing potential responses and solutions to the impasse. A concluding Round Table with both German and Italian speakers will discuss the main suggestions from different perspectives (Panel V).


Working language

The working language will be English. On the third day, both English/Italian and English/German simultaneous translation will be provided for the invited audience.



Last update: 3 November 2016

Lead Institutions



The deadline for the participation as engaged listener at the conference "Remedies against Immunities" has expired. Decisions will be communicated in January 2017.
The Fritz Thyssen Foundation has awarded a grant for the conference „Remedies against Immunity?”.



Anette Kreutzfeld

Violetta Ritz

Elisa Andreotti


Phone: +49 (0) 6221 482307