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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 Concept

Sentenza 238/2014 of the Italian Constitutional Court created a legal and political deadlock between Italy and Germany. In denying Germany's immunity from civil jurisdiction over claim to reparations for Nazi crimes committed during World War II, the Italian Constitutional Court indirectly challenged the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) judgment of 2012, which had confirmed the principle of State immunity. The Sentenza warrants renewed attention because a wave of judgments issued by several Italian courts since 2015 started breathing new life into the case. Court decisions in Florence, Piacenza and Rome ordered Germany to pay reparations to Italian victims of deportation and their heirs. Germany, however, contends that State immunity bars the Italian courts’ jurisdiction and it has refused to take part in the proceedings. Numerous similar cases are currently pending.

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 a remedy (as exemplified by the Constitutional Court’s insistence on access to a judge for the victims). Almost three 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 the following further theoretical issues: the relationship between international law and domestic law; the role of domestic courts in the formation and development of international customary law; and the issue of separation of powers in a democratic state.

The conference is envisioned as 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 which resulted. The conference’s spirit shall be forward-looking and conciliatory. The event not only aspires 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 presented, with the aim of suggesting innovative ideas to an invited audience of political and judicial stakeholders who will participate in the final day of the conference. 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 within a common European framework.


Event Venue

The venue of the event has a deep symbolic significance. Villa Vigoni is a German State property situated in Italian territory. It is 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, enforcement measures have been imposed by Italian authorities on this property in order to ensure the payment of compensation by Germany to victims of Nazi crimes.



The first two days follow a purely 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 is mainly composed of PhD candidates and junior scholars selected and admitted to participate in the conference on the basis of a public call. On the third day, the conference’s results will be made public and discussed before and with an enlarged audience of both German and Italian stakeholders, such as judges involved in the pre-/post-Sentenza proceedings, lawmakers, diplomats, legal experts, media representatives, and civil society organizations. The conference’s third day will be recorded and live streamed on the website of the Verfassungsblog.


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 – 13.30):

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.



Lead Institutions


In Collaboration with


The conference has been live streamed and can now be viewed on Youtube whereas the speakers contributions have been published as short blogs on Verfassungsblog.
A final press statement with the results of the conference has been released.
The Fritz Thyssen Foundation has awarded a grant for the conference "Remedies against Immunity?".



Anette Kreutzfeld

Violetta Ritz

Elisa Andreotti

Giuseppina De Marco


Phone: +49 (0) 6221 482307