INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
Peace Palace, Carnegieplein 2, 2517 KJ The Hague, Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0)70 302 2323 Fax: +31 (0)70 364 9928
15 July 2011
Jurisdictional Immunities of the State
(Germany v. Italy)
Application for permission to intervene submitted by Greece
The Court grants Greece permission to intervene in the proceedings as a non-party
THE HAGUE, 15 July 2011. By an Order dated 4 July 2011, the International Court of
Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, granted the Hellenic Republic (hereinafter “Greece”) permission to intervene as a non-party in the case concerning Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy).
Whilst drawing the Court’s attention to certain considerations which would indicate that
Greece’s Application did not meet the criteria set out in Article 62, paragraph 1, of the Statute of the Court, Germany had expressly stated that it did not “formally object” to this Application being allowed. Italy, for its part, had indicated that it did not object to the Application being granted.
In its Order, the Court first briefly described the factual context of Greece’s Application for permission to intervene. It recalled that, on 10 June 1944, during the German occupation of Greece, German armed forces had committed a massacre in the Greek village of Distomo, killing many civilians. It noted that a Greek court of first instance had rendered a judgment in 1997 against Germany and awarded damages to relatives of the victims of the massacre, and that that judgment had later been confirmed by the Hellenic Supreme Court in the year 2000, but that it had not been possible to enforce those two judgments in Greece because the Greek Minister for Justice had not granted the authorization required in order to enforce a judgment against a foreign State.
The Court also observed that the claimants in the Distomo case had subsequently brought
proceedings against Greece and Germany before the European Court of Human Rights but that, in 2002, the latter, invoking the principle of State immunity, had held that the claimants’ application was inadmissible. The Court recalled that the Greek claimants had then sought to enforce the judgments of the Greek courts in Italy and that the Italian court had held that the first Greek judgment (delivered in 1997) was enforceable in Italy.
In its Order, the Court subsequently declared that, in the judgment that it will render in the case concerning Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy), it might find it necessary “to consider the decisions of Greek courts in the Distomo case, in light of the principle of State immunity, for the purposes of making findings with regard to the third request in Germany’s submissions”. The Court concluded that this was sufficient to indicate that Greece had an interest of a legal nature which might be affected by the judgment in the case between Germany and Italy.
It should be recalled that the third request in Germany’s submissions reads as follows: that the Italian Republic . . . (3) by declaring Greek judgments based on [violations of international humanitarian law by the German Reich during World War II] enforceable in Italy, committed a further breach of Germany’s jurisdictional immunity”.
The Court made clear that where it permits an intervention, it may limit the scope thereof
and allow intervention for only one aspect of the subject-matter of the application which is before it. Taking account of its conclusions regarding Greece’s legal interest in the present case, the Court found that Greece could be permitted to intervene as a non-party “in so far as this intervention is limited to the decisions of Greek courts [in the Distomo case]”, as referred to above.
In concrete terms, intervening as a “non-party” in the case concerning Jurisdictional
Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy) allows Greece to have access to the Parties’ written pleadings and “to inform the Court of the nature of [its] legal rights and interests . . . that could be affected by the Court’s decision in light of the claims advanced by Germany” in the principal proceedings. To this end, by the same Order, the Court fixed 5 August 2011 as the time-limit for the filing of the written statement of Greece, and 5 September 2011 as the time-limit for the filing of the written observations of Germany and Italy on that statement. The subsequent procedure was reserved for further decision. Article 85 of the Rules of Court provides, inter alia, that “[t]he intervening State shall be entitled, in the course of the oral proceedings, to submit its observations with respect to the subject-matter of the intervention”.
It should be noted that its non-party status denies Greece the possibility of asserting rights of its own in the context of the principal proceedings between the Parties (Germany and Italy), and that the judgment that the Court will render on the merits of the case will not be binding on Greece, whereas it will have binding force and be without appeal for the Parties.
Composition of the Court
The Court was composed as follows: President Owada; Vice-President Tomka;
Judges Koroma, Al-Khasawneh, Simma, Abraham, Keith, Sepúlveda-Amor, Bennouna, Skotnikov, Cançado Trindade, Yusuf, Greenwood, Xue, Donoghue; Judge ad hoc Gaja; Registrar Couvreur.
Judge Cançado Trindade appended a separate opinion to the Order of the Court;
Judge ad hoc Gaja appended a declaration to the Order of the Court. Summaries of that opinion and that declaration are published below, as an annex to this press release.
Note: The Court’s press releases do not constitute official documents. This press release is a concise summary of the decision taken by the Court, for information purposes only.
The history of the proceedings and a brief description of the factual context of Greece’s
Application for permission to intervene can be found in paragraphs 1 to 14 of the Order, the full text of which can be found in the “Cases” section of the website.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in
April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York. The Court has a twofold role: first, to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the Parties concerned); and, second, to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and agencies of the system. The Court is composed of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. It is assisted by the Registry, its international secretariat, whose activities are both judicial and diplomatic, as well as administrative. The official languages of the Court are French and English.
Mr. Andrey Poskakukhin, First Secretary of the Court, Head of Department (+31 (0)70 302 2336)
Mr. Boris Heim, Information Officer (+31 (0)70 302 2337)
Ms Joanne Moore, Associate Information Officer (+31 (0)70 302 2394)
Ms Genoveva Madurga, Administrative Assistant (+31 (0)70 302 2396)
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