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Germany Rejects Italian WWII Damages Ruling

Germany rejected a ruling by Italy's top criminal court that it must pay damages to the families of victims of a World War II massacre.
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In an Associated Press report, Germany rejected a ruling by Italy's top criminal court that it must pay damages to the families of victims of a World War II massacre.

Italy's Court of Cassation on Tuesday ordered Berlin to pay a total of euro1 million ($1.3 million) to nine family members of victims of the June 1944 massacre.

Soldiers in the Hermann Goering division, named after the head of Adolf Hitler's air force, shot and killed more than 200 civilians and destroyed most of the homes in the Tuscan town of Civitella to avenge a deadly attack by partisans.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said that under international law claims by individuals cannot be used to pursue compensation from nations.

"A payment by Germany to individuals on the basis of such a ruling is not possible – the principle of state immunity is valid internationally," Ploetner said.

He said that states' actions must be addressed by reparations payments from one government to another, and that Germany paid compensation to Italy under a 1961 agreement.

Seeking compensation for individuals is "morally understandable but it is, in judicial terms, the wrong way to address this injustice, and so this ruling is not acceptable for us," Ploetner said at a regular government news conference.

Ploetner said Germany had not yet received the full ruling and would study its details before considering "what paths are open to us." He refused to speculate on whether Berlin might take its case to an international court.

Ploetner added that Italy – an ally of Nazi Germany earlier in World War II – has cited the principle of state immunity itself. ``If this principle were to be broken that would have consequences not least for our Italian friends,'' Ploetner said.

In their ruling, the Rome judges upheld a 2007 appeals court ruling which also sentenced a former sergeant in the German army to life in prison. Italian law allows victims of a crime to attach civil lawsuits to a trial.

Augusto Dossena, a lawyer for the German government, said it was the first time the high court had ordered Germany to pay damages as part of criminal proceedings for a Nazi-era massacre. Lower courts have previously awarded damages.

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