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The Prosecutor v. Max Josef Milde

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Supreme Court, Italy
Case number 1072
Decision title Sentenza
Decision date 21 October 2008
  • The Prosecutor
  • Max Josef Milde
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, immunity (sovereign), Murder, reparation, World War II
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Procedural history

On 12 October 2006, the Italian military Court of La Spieza sentenced in abstencia a German citizen, Max Josef Milde, to life imprisonment for his role in this massacre. Max Josef Milde was sentenced for murder, pursuant Article 185 of the Italian Military Penal Code in time of war. The Court also upheld the complaints for compensation filed by the relatives of the victims against Germany.

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Related developments

On 23 December 2008, Germany filed an application instituting proceedings against Italy before the International Court of Justice, arguing that '[i]n recent years, Italian judicial bodies have repeatedly disregarded the jurisdictional immunity of Germany as a sovereign State.'

On 3 February 2012, the International Court of Justice indeed found 'that the Italian Republic ha[d] violated its obligation to respect the immunity which the Federal Republic of Germany enjoys under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945'. For more information, see this ICJ press release.

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Legally relevant facts

On 29 June 1944, SS soldiers perpetrated a massacre in the Italian town of Civitella, killing 203 civilians in reprisal for the murder of 2 soldiers in the hand of the Italian partisans. 

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Court's holding and analysis

On 21 October 2008, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte suprema di cassazione) upheld the Tribunal’s decision that the massacre of Civitella amounted to a war crime, and that no immunity from jurisdiction could be accorded to Germany for such acts. This case was part of a series of cases in which the Italian Courts developed a firm jurisprudence excluding State immunity in the case of violations of basic human rights or international crimes.

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Related cases

Other cases related to sovereign immunity for international crimes: