FIFTH SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 45563/04 
by ASSOCIAZIONE NAZIONALE REDUCI DALLA PRIGIONIA DALL’INTERNAMENTO E DALLA GUERRA DI LIBERAZIONE  
and 275 Others 
against Germany

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 4 September 2007 as a Chamber composed of:

Mr P. Lorenzen, President
 Mrs S. Botoucharova
 Mr K. Jungwiert
 Mr R. Maruste
 Mr J. Borrego Borrego
 Mrs R. Jaeger, 
 Mr M. Villiger, judges,

and Mrs C. Westerdiek, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 20 December 2004,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicants are an association, the Associazione Nazionale Reduci Dalla Prigionia dall’Internamento e dalla Guerra di Liberazione (A.N.R.P.), registered in Italy, and 275 natural persons who are all Italian nationals (see list appended). Most of those individuals are members of the applicant association. Some of the applicants lodged the application in their capacity as legal successors. The applicants were represented before the Court by Mr J. Lau, a lawyer practising in Florence.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicants, may be summarised as follows.

1.  The background to the case

Most of the applicants were members of the Italian armed forces during the Second World War. Italy had first been an ally of the German Reich, but after Mussolini’s fall the new Italian Government concluded a truce with the allied forces on 3 September 1943. As of 9 September 1943 the German armed forces disarmed and captured Italian soldiers. The German army offered those captured Italian soldiers the choice of either joining the German armed forces or becoming prisoners of war. The latter were detained in labour camps and used as labourers in the German industry.

As of 20 September 1943 those detainees were called “Italian Military internees” (“Italienische Militärinternierte”).

On 13 October 1943 Italy declared war against Germany.

Beginning in the summer of 1944 the internees were transferred from war captivity (Kriegsgefangenschaft) to so-called “civilian employment” (Ziviles Arbeitsverhältnis). At first, the internees were asked to sign an according declaration consenting to the change of their status. Despite pressure exercised by the German authorities, only few internees agreed to the transfer of their status. The Government of the German Reich then abstained from obtaining those declarations and transferred the internees to civilian status without any formal declaration. They were subsequently registered as civilian forced labourers. The working conditions and the detention in labour camps, however, did not change. The internees had to carry out physically hard work without receiving adequate nutrition and many of them died as a consequence.

Five of the applicants, among them Mr Ferrini and Mr Accidini, were not members of the Italian armed forces. They were civilians who were deported to Germany and subjected to forced labour as an act of retaliation against the Italian civilian population.

The Federal Republic of Germany, after its foundation on 23 May 1949, did not establish any compensation schemes specifically for forced labourers.

Under the London Agreement on Germany’s External Debts (London Debt Agreement) of 27 February 1953, the regulation of compensation claims was deferred until the final settlement of reparation.

The Federal Republic of Germany paid compensation to victims of the Nazi regime, mostly to those who were living in Israel, Germany and other Western European States, in particular pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Act on Compensation for Victims of Nazi Persecution (Bundes-entschädigungsgesetz), which entered into force on 1 October 1953.  
It provided inter alia compensation for detention in a concentration camp and damage caused to the detainees’ health. However, forced labour as such was not covered by the existing legislation.

In 1961 the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy concluded an agreement pursuant to which the Federal Republic of Germany paid a lump sum to the Italian State, which then awarded compensation to victims of persecution by the Nazi regime. The Italian State did not award any benefits to the former “Italian Military Internees”. They receive a supplement of 0.52 euros per day to their regular old-age pension from the Italian State, as do all former members of the Italian armed forces who were detained as prisoners of war.

After 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany furthermore paid lump sums to several Eastern European States, which then created funds for victims of the Nazi regime.

However, individual compensation for forced labour as such was still not provided by the Federal Republic of Germany. Hence many of those former forced labourers brought actions against German companies, in particular class action suits in the United States of America. Against that background the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Government of the United States of America concluded a treaty that envisaged the creation of the foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (Stiftung “Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft”  
“the Foundation”) which would provide individual compensation for former forced labourers.

Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Byelorussia,  
the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (“the Jewish Claims Conference”), legal representatives of former forced labourers and representatives of the German industry had participated in those negotiations. Italy had not been a party.

On 12 August 2000 the “Law on the Creation of the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (Gesetz zur Errichtung einer Stiftung “Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft” “the Foundation Law”) entered into force (see “Relevant domestic and international law” below).

2.  The facts of the present case

(a)  The constitutional complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court

On 11 August 2001 the applicant association, a former Italian Military Internee (M) and the 271st applicant (Mr Ferrini), who had been subjected to forced labour as a civilian, lodged a constitutional complaint against sections 10 § 1, 11 § 3 and 16 §§ 1 and 2 of the Foundation Law with the Federal Constitutional Court.

On 17 January 2002 applicants nos. 2 – 270 joined the constitutional complaint.

The applicant Mr Ferrini and M submitted that they had had claims for compensation for forced labour under German civil law in conjunction with international public law against the Federal Republic of Germany prior to the entry into force of the Foundation Law. Invoking a violation of their right of property (Article 14 of the German Basic Law – see “Relevant domestic and international law” below) they complained that they lost those claims by virtue of section 16 of the Foundation Law.  
All complainants contended that the exclusion of judicial review of the decisions by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) violated their right to an effective remedy under Article 19 § 4 of the German Basic Law. Moreover, they held the opinion that the exclusion of former prisoners of war from the ambit of compensation under the Foundation Law was discriminatory and thus contrary to Article 3 of the German Basic Law (prohibition of discrimination). Lastly, the complainants submitted that they had lost the right under Article 104 of the German Basic Law to have the unlawfulness of their arrest, detention and forced labour confirmed by a judge.

On 28 June 2004 the Federal Constitutional Court refused to admit the complaint. In respect of the applicant association the court held that the complaint was inadmissible since the association did not invoke a violation of its own constitutional rights, but solely a violation of the rights of its members. Regarding applicants nos. 2 – 270, the court found that the complaint had been lodged outside the statutory time-limit of one year since the entry into force of the Foundation Law on 12 August 2000. As far as the applicant Mr Ferrini and M were concerned the court held that their complaint was partly admissible, but unfounded.

In respect of Article 104 of the German Basic Law the court held that the Basic Law did not apply to the arrest, the detention and the forced labour, since those events had taken place before the Basic Law entered into force on 23 May 1949. Furthermore, referring to the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land (“the Hague Convention” – see “Relevant domestic and international law” below) the court found that international public law did not establish individual claims for compensation for forced labour. The court pointed out in particular that Article 3 of the Hague Convention did not establish an individual claim of compensation against a Contracting State, but created only claims of one Contracting State vis-à-vis another Contracting Party. The court went on to say that it was not excluded that national law might establish claims of individuals that existed next to the claims of the Contracting State. This, however, did not mean that there was a general rule according to which individuals had a right of compensation against the State which had violated the Hague Convention. Hence the question as to whether individuals were entitled to compensation was entirely dependant on domestic law.

Moreover, the court found that the exclusion of former prisoners of war from the scope of those eligible for benefits under the Foundation Law by section 11 § 3 was not discriminatory since prisoners of war could be compelled to perform labour under the Hague Convention. In this respect the court elaborated that the legislator was allowed to distinguish, when awarding compensation, between victims of general hardships caused by the war and victims of particular ideological persecution by the Nazi regime, especially as the funds of the Foundation were limited.

In respect of the exclusion of judicial review by the Foundation Law the court found that Article 19 § 4 of the Basic Law required that actually a right existed whose alleged violation could be examined by the courts.  
The court concluded that the legislator was free to decide not to establish claims of an individual vis-à-vis a public law foundation and to exclude judicial review in this connection.

In its decision the Federal Constitutional Court pointed out that, according to his own submissions, Mr Ferrini had not lodged a request for compensation with the IOM since he had not been detained in “another place of confinement” within the meaning of section 11 § 1 no. 1 of the Foundation Law and was furthermore not in a position to demonstrate that he met the requirements as set up by the guidelines of the Foundation  
(see “Relevant domestic and international law” below).

(b)  The requests for compensation lodged with the IOM

The applicants nos. 2 – 276 submitted that they had all lodged unsuccessful request for compensation for forced labour with the IOM. However, only the 274th and 276th applicants, Mr Accidini and Mr della Piazza, presented decisions of the IOM to the Court.

On 22 April 2003 the IOM rejected the request lodged by the applicant Mr Accidini holding that he did not meet the requirements for compensation under section 11 § 1 of the Foundation Law in respect of forced labourers from Western European States; i.e. forced labour in a concentration camp, a ghetto or “another place of confinement”.

On 6 April 2004 the IOM’s appeals board rejected Mr della Piazza’s appeal as unfounded, confirming that, as a former prisoner of war, he was excluded from benefits.

(c)  The proceedings before the administrative courts

(i)  The proceedings brought by the applicants Mr Malberto and Mr Basile

On 6 August 2002 the 272nd and 273rd applicants, Mr Basile and  
Mr Malberto, who had been subjected to forced labour as Italian Military Internees, lodged requests for compensation with the IOM. By letter dated 11 June 2002 the IOM informed the applicants that they did not fall within the scope of the Foundation Law, as determined by the Foundation and the German Government. By letter of 11 November 2002 the IOM notified the applicants that its appeals board was bound by the decision of the Foundation and the German Government. Apparently, no formal decision was rendered by the IOM.

On 6 August 2002 the applicants Mr Basile and Mr Malberto brought an action for declaration (Feststellungsklage) against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Foundation in the Berlin Administrative Court as a pilot case. They requested the court inter alia to hold that they, as former Italian Military Internees, were entitled to benefits under the Foundation Law.

(α)  The judgment of the Berlin Administrative Court of 9 September 2004

The court rejected the applicant’s action. The court found that the action was inadmissible since there was no legal relationship (Rechtsverhältnis) between the applicants on the one hand and the Federal Republic of Germany and the Foundation on the other hand, which is an admissibility criterion for an action for declaration. The Foundation Law did not establish individual claims vis-à-vis the Foundation or the Federal Republic of Germany, but solely vis-à-vis the partner organisation.  
The court added that the fact that the Federal Ministry of Finances exercised the legal supervision of the Foundation did not create a legal relationship between the applicants and the Federal Republic of Germany. From the court’s point of view the legal supervision was solely carried out in the public interest and not in the interest of the beneficiaries under the Foundation Law. The court held the opinion that the applicants were thus only indirectly affected by the legal supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finances.

The court refused the applicants leave to appeal.

(β)  The decision of the Berlin Administrative Court of 11 November 2004

The Berlin Administrative Court of Appeal rejected the applicants’ request for leave to appeal against the judgment of the Berlin Administrative Court confirming the lower court’s reasoning.

(ii)  The proceedings brought by Mr della Piazza

On 3 November 2003 the 276th applicant, Mr della Piazza, brought an action (Verpflichtungsklage) against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Foundation in the Berlin Administrative Court. He requested the court to order the Federal Ministry of Finances to instruct the Foundation to recognise that he was entitled to benefits under section 11 of the Foundation Law. Furthermore, he requested the court to order the Foundation to recognise that he, as a former Italian Military Internee, was entitled to benefits under section 11 of the Foundation Law.

On 17 March 2005 the court rejected the applicant’s action. In respect of the first motion the court held that the applicant could not derive any rights vis-à-vis the Federal Ministry of Finances from the fact that the latter exercised the legal supervision of the Foundation.

As regards the applicant’s second motion the court found, as outlined above, that the Foundation Law did not establish a legal relationship between the applicants and the Foundation.

B.  Relevant domestic and international law

1.  The Foundation Law

The Foundation Law stipulates that the Foundation should be endowed with 10 billion Deutschmarks (DEM - 5.11 billion euros (EUR)), to be provided equally by the German Government and by German industry.

The sum of 8.1 billion DEM is intended for the compensation of forced labour. The largest share of those funds (approximately 5.5 billion DEM) is reserved for applicants residing in Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Estonia and the Czech Republic. The remaining share is destined for beneficiaries residing outside the aforementioned States, namely 800 million DEM for non-Jewish beneficiaries and about 1.8 billion DEM for Jewish beneficiaries.

The remaining funds of approximately 1.9 billion DEM inter alia aim at compensating the loss of property or were granted as humanitarian aid to the Jewish Claims Conference and the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, which finance social programmes for Holocaust survivors.

The Federal Ministry of Finances exercises the legal supervision (Rechtsaufsicht) of the Foundation.

Requests for compensation are not processed by the Foundation itself, but by its regional partner organisations in several European countries.  
The competent partner organisation for Italy is the IOM in Geneva.

Each partner organisation has an appeals board which reviews the organisation’s decisions upon an applicant’s appeal. Judicial review of the appeals boards’ decisions is not provided for by the Foundation Law.

The highest amount of compensation - for forced labour in a concentration camp - is 15,000 DEM (7,669 EUR).

Pursuant to section 11 § 3 of the Foundation Law forced labour carried out during war captivity, as a matter of principle, does not entitle to compensation. The provisions read as follows:

Section 11: Eligible persons

(1)  Eligible under this law are:

1.  persons who were detained in a concentration camp as defined in section 42 § 2 of the German Indemnification Act or in another place of confinement outside the territory of what is now the Republic of Austria or a ghetto under comparable conditions and were subjected to forced labour;

2.  persons who were deported from their homeland to the territory of the German Reich within the borders of 1937 or to a German occupied area, subjected to forced labour in a commercial enterprise or for public authorities there, and detained under conditions other than those mentioned in Number 1, or were subjected to conditions resembling detention or similar extremely harsh living conditions; this rule does not apply to persons who because their forced labour was performed primarily in the territory of what is now the Republic of Austria may receive payments from the Austrian Reconciliation Foundation; ...

(3) Prisoner-of-War status does not entitle to benefits....”

In respect of the exclusion of former prisoners of war the travaux préparatoires state that according to international public law prisoners of war may be forced to perform work by the detaining state.

In 2001 the Federal Ministry of Finances obtained an expert opinion on the legal status of the Italian Military Internees which concluded that those had never lost their prisoner-of-war status, because the German Reich had not been in a position to revoke their status unilaterally. The Federal Ministry of Finances shared that view and instructed the Foundation that former Italian Military Internees were excluded from benefits under the Foundation Law.

In August 2001 the board of trustees of the Foundation issued guidelines according to which Italian Military Internees were excluded from benefits unless they had been detained in a concentration camp. Those guidelines had been prepared in concert with the Federal Ministry of Finances. In a letter dated 12 February 2002 addressed to the IOM the Foundation pointed out that the Foundation and its partner organisations were bound by the Government’s position.

As regards civilian forced labourers from Western European States, they, according to the aforementioned guidelines, are only entitled to benefits if they were subjected to forced labour in a concentration camp, a ghetto or “another place of confinement” as set out in the first sentence of section 11 § 1 of the Foundation Law. Otherwise, from the Foundation’s point of view the former forced labourers would not meet the criterion of “similar extremely harsh living conditions” referred to in the second sentence of section 11 § 1 of the Foundation Law. According to the Foundation there was a presumption that they were not housed under “conditions resembling detention”, which could, however, be rebutted by the former forced labourers.

All possible further claims against the German State or German companies going beyond the benefits provided by the Foundation Law are excluded by section 16, which reads as follows:

Section 16: Exclusions from Claims

(1) Payments from public funds, including social security, and from German business enterprises for injustice suffered under National Socialism as defined in Section 11 may be claimed only under the terms of this Law. Any further claims in connection with National Socialist injustices are excluded. This applies also to cases in which claims have been transferred to third persons by operation of law, transition, or a legal transaction.

(2) Each claimant shall provide a statement within the framework of the application procedure irrevocably renouncing, without prejudice to Sentences 3 through 5, after receipt of a payment under this Law any further claim against the authorities for forced labour and property damage, all claims against German enterprises in connection with National Socialist injustice, and forced-labour claims against the Republic of Austria or Austrian enterprises. The renunciation becomes effective upon receipt of a payment under this Law. ...”

2.  The Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of Wars on Land (Hague IV) of 18 October 1907(“the Hague Convention”)

Article 3

A belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said Regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces.

3.  Annex to the Hague Convention

Article 4

Prisoners of war are in the power of the hostile Government, but not of the individuals or corps who capture them.

They must be humanely treated.

All their personal belongings, except arms, horses and military papers, remain their property.

Article 6

The State may utilize the labour of the prisoners of war according to their rank and aptitude, officers excepted. The tasks, however, shall not be excessive and shall have no connection with the operations of the war.

Article 23

In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden -

...

To declare abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party. A belligerent is likewise forbidden to compel the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent’s service before the commencement of the war. “

4.  The Slavery Convention, signed on 25 September 1926 in Geneva

Article 5

“The High Contracting Parties recognise that recourse to compulsory or forced labour may have grave consequences and undertake each in respect of the territories place under its sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection, suzerainty or tutelage, to take all necessary measures to prevent compulsory or forced labour from developing into conditions analogous to slavery.

It is agreed:

(1) Subject to the transitional provisions laid down in paragraph (2) below, compulsory or forced labour may only be exacted for public purposes.

(2) In territories in which compulsory or forced labour for other than public purposes still survives, the High Contracting Parties shall endeavour progressively and as soon as possible to put an end to the practice. So long as such forced or compulsory labour exists, this labour shall invariable be of an exceptional character, shall always receive adequate remuneration, and shall not involve the removal of the labourers from their usual place of residence.”

5.  The Convention between the United States of America and Other Powers relating to Prisoners of War, signed on 27 July 1929  
(“the Convention Relating to Prisoners of War”)

“Article 2

Prisoners of war are in the power of the hostile Power, but not of the individuals or corps who have captured them.

They must at all times be humanely treated and protected, particularly against acts of violence, insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against them are prohibited.

Article 10

Prisoners of war shall be lodged in buildings or in barracks affording all possible guarantees of hygiene and healthfulness.

The quarters must be fully protected from dampness, sufficiently heated and lighted. All precautions must be taken against danger of fire.

With regard to dormitories the total surface, minimum cubic amount of air, arrangement and material of bedding-the conditions shall be the same as for the troops at base camps of the detaining Power.

Article 11

...

Belligerents may utilize the labour of able prisoners of war, according to their rank and aptitude, officers and persons of equivalent status excepted.

However, if officers or persons of equivalent status request suitable work, it shall be secured for them so far as is possible.

Noncommissioned officers who are prisoners of war shall only be required to do supervisory work, unless they expressly request a remunerative occupation.

Belligerents shall be bound, during the whole period of captivity, to allow to prisoners of war who are victims of accidents in connection with their work the enjoyment of the benefit of the provisions applicable to labourers of the same class according to the legislation of the detaining Power. With regard to prisoners of war to whom these legal provisions might not be applied by reason of the legislation of that Power, the latter undertakes to recommend to its legislative body all proper measures equitably to indemnify the victims.

Article 29

No prisoner of war may be employed at labours for which he is physically unfit.

Article 32

It is forbidden to use prisoners of war at unhealthy or dangerous work.

Any aggravation of the conditions of labour by disciplinary measures is forbidden.

...

Prisoners utilized for other work shall be entitled to wages to be fixed by agreements between the belligerents. ...”

6.  The relevant provisions of the German Basic Law

Article 3

“(1)  All persons shall be equal before the law.

...

Article 14

(1)  Property and the right of inheritance shall be guaranteed. Their content and limits shall be defined by the laws.

(2)  Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.

(3)  Expropriation shall only be permissible in the public interest. It may only be ordered by or pursuant to a law that determines the nature and extent of compensation. Such compensation shall be determined by establishing an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected. In case of dispute respecting the amount of compensation, recourse may be had to the ordinary courts.

Article 19 § 4

Should any individual’s rights be infringed by public authority, he may have recourse to the courts. ...”

COMPLAINTS

The applicants complained under Articles 5 §§ 4 and 5, 6 § 1 and 14 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention about the decisions rendered by the IOM, the Federal Constitutional Court, the Berlin Administrative Court and the Berlin Administrative Court of Appeal.

In respect of Article 5 §§ 4 and 5 of the Convention the applicants complained that they were denied the right to have the illegality of their deportation and forced labour acknowledged.

Invoking Article 6 § 1 of the Convention the applicants submitted that they did not have access to a court for the judicial review of the decisions rendered by the IOM. In particular, the applicants complained that the IOM appeals body did not satisfy the requirements of an ”independent and impartial tribunal” within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

Under Article 14 of the Convention the applicants argued that they were discriminated against both as foreigners and as former Italian Military Internees.

Moreover, they held the opinion that they had had claims for compensation under domestic civil law in conjunction with international public law against the Federal Republic of Germany which had become extinct as a result of section 16 of the Foundation Law. They therefore complained of a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. The applicants based their claims in particular on Article 23 of the Hague Convention, the Slavery Convention and the Convention Relating to Prisoners of War. Furthermore, the applicants argued that Italian Military Internees had been in fact civilian forced labourers and not prisoners of war as maintained by the Federal Republic of Germany. They contended that they had not been treated as prisoners of war by the German Reich and considered it contradictory that the Federal Republic of Germany held that alleged status against them to deny them compensation. Lastly, the applicants who had been subjected to forced labour as civilians complained about the refusal of their requests for compensation under the Foundation Law.

THE LAW

1. The applicants (nos. 2-274 and 276) complained that they were denied the possibility to have the illegality of their or their ancestors’ deportation and forced labour confirmed within the meaning of Article 5, the relevant parts of which read as follows:

“4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”

The Court notes that the applicants’ or their ancestors’ deportation to the German Reich as well as their forced labour took place before the Convention entered into force on 3 September 1953.

The Court therefore considers that the applicants’ complaints about the deportation and forced labour as such are incompatible ratione temporis with the provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

Insofar as the applicants complained that the Federal Republic of Germany has failed to acknowledge the illegality of the forced labour, deportation and detention, the Court reiterates that the Convention imposes no specific obligation on the Contracting States to provide redress for wrongs or damage caused prior to their ratification of the Convention  
(see Kopecký v. Slovakia [GC], no. 44912/98, § 38, ECHR 2004-IX).

This also applies to the legal situation of the Federal Republic of Germany which is considered to be the continuation of the German Reich, (see the decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court no. 2 BvF 1/73, judgment of 31 July 1973, Decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfGE), vol. 36, pp. 1 et seq., 15-16, and no. 2 BvR 373/83, decision of 21 October 1987, Decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfGE), vol. 77, pp. 137 et seq., 154-156).

Therefore, the applicants’ complaint is incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and the Protocols thereto in this respect, again within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

It follows that this part of the application must be declared inadmissible pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

2. The applicants who were subjected to forced labour as Italian Military Internees (nos. 2-25, 27-34, 36-270), and the applicants Mr Ferrini and Mr Accidini who were subjected to forced labour as civilians, complained that they were denied benefits under the Foundation Law. They also challenge the exclusion of former prisoners of war from the scope of benefits under the Foundation Law and the decision that the Italian Military Internees were to be regarded as prisoners of war.

Lastly, they submitted that they had lost their further claims for compensation against the Federal Republic of Germany as a result of section 16 of the Foundation Law. They complained of a violation of their rights of property under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, which reads as follows:

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”

(a)  General considerations

An applicant can allege a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 only insofar as the impugned decisions related to his or her “possessions” within the meaning of this provision. “Possessions” can either be “existing possessions” or assets, including claims, in respect of which the applicant can argue that he or she has at least a “legitimate expectation” of obtaining effective enjoyment of a property right (see, Kopecký, cited above, § 35).

Furthermore, as stated above, the Convention imposes no specific obligation on the Federal Republic of Germany to provide redress for wrongs or damage caused by the German Reich. Where the State, however, chooses to redress such wrongs and damage for which it is not responsible, it has a wide margin of appreciation. In particular, the State has a wide margin of appreciation when choosing how and to whom to compensate such wrongs (see, mutatis mutandis, von Maltzan and Others v. Germany (dec.), no. 71916/01, 71917/01 and 10260/02, § 74, ECHR 2005-...;  
Woś v. Poland, no. 22860/02, § 72,ECHR 2006-...).

In the present case the Court must first consider whether Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 is applicable. Therefore, it has to be examined whether the applicants had “possessions” within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, i. e. “existing possessions” or a “legitimate expectation” of obtaining the effective enjoyment of a property right. In this respect the Court recalls that a legitimate expectation must be based either on a legal provision or have a solid basis in the domestic case-law (see von Maltzan and Others, cited above, § 112).

(b)  The applicants who were subjected to forced labour as Italian Military Internees

These applicants challenge both the exclusion of former prisoners of war from the definition of those eligible for compensation under the Foundation Act, and the decision that the Italian Military Internees were to be regarded as prisoners of war, with their resultant exclusion from eligibility for compensation. Secondly, they complain about section 16 of the Foundation Law which excludes any further claims going beyond the benefits provided by the Foundation Law.

Whatever sufferings the applicants’ forced labour brought about, none of the Conventions referred to by the applicants establishes any individual claims for compensation. When the Foundation Law entered into force there was no legal provision, whether of an international or of a domestic character, supporting the applicants’ claims against the Federal Republic of Germany. Furthermore, the applicants have been unable to point to any case-law in their favour.

The Court therefore concludes that the applicants cannot claim to have had a legitimate expectation of compensation for their detention and forced labour during the Second World War.

This part of the application is therefore incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of Protocol No. 1, and it must be declared inadmissible pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

(c)  The applicants Mr Ferrini and Mr Accidini

These applicants complained that they were denied benefits under the Foundation Law and furthermore lost all further claims against the Federal Republic of Germany under section 16 of the Foundation Law.

The Court observes that the applicants were not subjected to forced labour as Italian Military Internees, but as civilians.

These applicants, too, cannot claim to have had a legitimate expectation of obtaining compensation when the Foundation Law entered into force.  
It follows that neither the denial of benefits under the Foundation Law nor the removal of further claims gave rise to issues under Article 1 of Protocol no. 1 to the Convention.

This part of the application is therefore incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of Protocol No. 1 and must also be declared inadmissible pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

3. The applicants who were subjected to forced labour as Italian Military Internees (applicants nos. 2-25, 27-34, 36-270) submitted under Article 14 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that they had been discriminated against by the exclusion of former prisoners of war from benefits under the Foundation Law. Article 14 of the Convention provides:

“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”

As the Court has consistently held, Article 14 of the Convention complements the other substantive provisions of the Convention and its Protocols. It has no independent existence since it has effect solely in relation to “the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms” safeguarded by those provisions. Although the application of Article 14 does not presuppose a breach of those provisions – and to this extent it is autonomous – there can be no room for its application unless the facts at issue fall within the ambit of one or more of the latter (see Hans-Adam von Liechtenstein v. Germany [GC], no. 42527/98, § 91, ECHR 2001-VIII).

The Court has already found that the Italian Military Internees cannot claim to have a legitimate expectation of compensation for the detention and forced labour and that the facts at issue therefore do not fall within the ambit of Protocol No. 1.

This finding is not contradicted by the Court’s judgment in the case of Stec and Others. In that case the Court held that non-contributory social benefits funded by general taxation fall within the scope of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. The Court decided that although that provision does not grant the right to receive a social security payment of any kind, if a State does decide to establish a benefits scheme, it must do so in a manner compatible with Article 14 (see Stec and Others v. the United Kingdom (dec.), nos. 65731/01 and 56900/01, ECHR 2005-...; subsequently confirmed by the Grand Chamber’s judgment of 12 April 2006).

However, the present case is distinguishable from the case of Stec and Others for the following reasons. It is true that both the present case and the case of Stec concerned non-contributory benefits which are partly funded by general taxation. However, while the case of Stec dealt with a supplementary regular payment and a regular retirement pension in the framework of social security, the subject of the instant case is a one-off payment granted as compensation for events which had occurred even before the Convention entered into force and represented, in a wider sense, a settlement of damages caused by the Second World War. The payments were made outside the framework of social security legislation, and cannot be likened to the payments in Stec.

The Court therefore concludes that the facts of the present case do not attract the protection of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. It follows that the applicants’ complaints are incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and the Protocols thereto within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention, and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4.

4. The applicants (nos. 2-274 and 276) complained that judicial review of the decisions rendered by the IOM was excluded pursuant to the Foundation Law. They therefore held the opinion that they were denied access to an independent and impartial tribunal within the meaning of Article 6 of the Convention, the relevant part of which reads as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

The Court must first ascertain whether there was a dispute (“contestation”) over a “right” which can be said, at least on arguable grounds, to be recognised under domestic law, irrespective of whether it is also protected under the Convention (see Neves e Silva v. Portugal, judgment of 27 April 1989, Series A no. 153-A, p. 14, § 37).

The absence of a legitimate expectation of a property right under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 does not presuppose the absence of a right recognised on “arguable grounds” within the meaning of Article 6 of the Convention. Hence there is no necessary interrelation between the existence of claims covered by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and the applicability of Article 6 of the Convention (see J.S. and A.S. v. Poland, no. 40732/98, §§ 50-51, 24 May 2005).

The Court must therefore examine whether there was a dispute over a right recognised under domestic law at least on arguable grounds, irrespective of the fact that the applicants had no legitimate expectation of obtaining such a right in the end.

As outlined above, neither international public law nor domestic law recognised claims for compensation for forced labour at the time the Foundation Law entered into force. The only existing legal provisions regarding claims for forced labour were established by the Foundation Law. Yet under those provisions the applicants were excluded from benefits, because they were either expressly excluded as a group or did not meet the requirements for benefits.

The present case is therefore clearly distinguishable from the case of Woś in which the Court held that a compensation scheme under the Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation for former forced labourers, which is distinct from the system as set up by the Foundation Law, fell within the ambit of Article 6 of the Convention. In that case the Court found that the applicant met the requirements and therefore enjoyed, at least on arguable grounds, a right of compensation (see Woś v. Poland (dec.), no. 22860/02, 1 March 2005, subsequently confirmed in the Court’s judgment of 8 June 2006, cited above).

As the applicants were clearly excluded from benefits under the Foundation Law and compensation for forced labour was only provided recently, namely solely by the Foundation Law for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Court considers that the applicants could not claim to have had a right of compensation, even on arguable grounds.

It follows that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention does not apply to the facts of the present case. This part of the application is hence incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and the Protocols thereto within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

E.  The remaining applicants

In the light of all the material in its possession, and insofar as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that the complaints made by the remaining applicants do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention. It follows that this part of the application must be declared inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the application inadmissible.

Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen 
 Registrar President

 

List of the applicants

1)      ASSOCIAZIONE NAZIONALE REDUCI DALLA PRIGIONIA, DALL’ INTERNAMENTO e DALLA GUERRA DI LIBERAZIONE (A.N.R.P.)

3 )     

AIROLDI GASPARE

4 )     

ALBONICO GEROLAMO

5 )     

ARGELLI PAOLO

6 )     

BALEOTTI IGNAZIO

7 )     

BALLERINI DANTE

8 )     

BARBANO DOMENICO

9 )     

BARBARAN GIOVANNI

10 )     

BARONI GASTONE

11 )     

BASOCCU BENIGNO

12 )     

BENETTON PIETRO

13 )     

BERETTA GIUSEPPE

14 )     

BERTOLDI BRUNO

15 )     

BIANCHI ALFREDO

16 )     

BIANCHI GIUSEPPE

17 )     

BIANCO SERGIO

18 )     

BIANCOLIN ALFONSO

19 )     

BITTONI DOVILIO

20 )     

BOCEDI GIUSEPPE

21 )     

BOLSIERI GAETANO

22 )     

BOLZONI WALTER

23 )     

BONASSERA MARIO

24 )     

BORGOGNONI MARIO

25 )     

BORTOLAMI FERRUCCIO

26 )     

BOZZI NICOLA

27 )     

BROGIO GALLIANO

28 )     

BRUNATI AUGUSTO

29 )     

BUCCI ANGELO

30 )     

BURATTO FERRUCCIO

31 )     

BUTTO’ MARIO

32 )     

CALISSI GIUSEPPE

33 )     

CAMINATI MARIO

34 )     

CAMPOS FELICIANO

35 )     

CANONICI RODOLFO

36 )     

CAPONERA FRANCESCO

37 )     

CARBONI FILIPPO

38 )     

CAROLI ARMANDO

39 )     

CAROVILLANO FRANCESCO

40 )     

CARRARA VALENTINO

41 )     

CARRESI LETTERIO

42 )     

CASAGRANDE EGIDIO

43 )     

CASAGRANDE MARTINO

44 )     

CATTELAN ANTONIO

45 )     

CAVALERI PAOLO

46 )     

CECCARELLI ALBERTO

47 )     

CELLI ATTILIO

48 )     

CELOTTI EUGENIO

49 )     

CESCON GIOVANNI

50 )     

CHIAPPONI ARMANDO

51 )     

CIAMPONE GABRIELE

52 )     

CIOCCA PASQUALE

53 )     

COCEANI GIOVANNI

54 )     

CODA GIUSEPPE

55 )     

COLA UGO

56 )     

COLLODET AUGUSTO

57 )     

COMINCIOLI FRANCESCO BATTISTA

58 )     

COMPAGNONI SENATORE

59 )     

CONTE BRUNO

60 )     

CONTI VINICIO

61 )     

CORBANESE MATTEO

62 )     

CORTINOVIS PAOLO EMILIO

63 )     

COSSALI LUIGI

64 )     

CREMONA GUERRINO

65 )     

CREMONESI ETTORE

66 )     

CROCE SAVERIO

67 )     

DA ROS GIOVANNI

68 )     

DAGLIO PIETRO

69 )     

DAL CIN GUERRINO

70 )     

DAL POS SANTE

71 )     

DALLA GIUSTINA ANTONIO

72 )     

DALLA VECCHIA GIULIO

73 )     

D’AUSILIO ROSA Erede VIGILANTE ANTONIO

74 )     

DE CARLI BRUNO

75 )     

DE FRANCESCO FERDINANDO

76 )     

DE LUCA ANTONIO

77 )     

DEL VECCHIO REMO

78 )     

DESINANO ANGELO

79 )     

DI CORRADO PASQUALE

80 )     

DI DOMENICO DANTE LUIGI

81 )     

DI MAGGIO ANTONIO

82 )     

DI MARZO RAFFAELE

83 )     

DI STEFANO GIUSEPPE

84 )     

DITALI BRUNO

85 )     

DUSE ANGELO

86 )     

EMALDI MARIO

87 )     

ETERNO RAFFAELE

88 )     

FABBRI FRANCESCO

89 )     

FALCHI ANTONIO

90 )     

FARIELLO GIULIANA Erede FARIELLO ANIELLO

91 )     

FERRARI LUIGI

92 )     

FERRI LINO

93 )     

FIENGO GIUSEPPE

94 )     

FILIPPETTO NARCISO

95 )     

FINOTTI ORAZIO

96 )     

FIORDELMONDO VINCENZO

97 )     

FIORE FRANCESCANTONIO

98 )     

FIORICA ANTONINO

99 )     

FLOCCO VITTORIO

100 )     

FRANCANI ANNUNZIO

101 )     

FRANZIN GIUSEPPE

102 )     

FRANZINI ANGELO

103 )     

FRIGERI CINZIO

104 )     

FURIA ERALDO

105 )     

GAIOT SEBASTIANO

106 )     

GALBIATI ROSA

107 )     

GALLI CARLO

108 )     

GALLO GUALTIERO

109 )     

GAMBARELLI ANTONIO

110 )     

GAMBILLARA GASTONE

111 )     

GIACHETTO ISEO

112 )     

GIACOBELLI CARLO

113 )     

GIACOMELLI LEO

114 )     

GIORDANO GIUSEPPE

115 )     

GIRARDI MAURO

116 )     

GIULIANO NICOLA DOMENICO

117 )     

GRAZIOLI FRANCESCO

118 )     

GRECCO FRANCESCO

119 )     

GREGGIO GIUSEPPE

120 )     

GRIMALDI BENIAMINO

121 )     

GRIMANDI MARIO

122 )     

GUERANI LANFRANCO

123 )     

GUGLIUZZA SALVATORE

124 )     

GUIDONE NICOLA

125 )     

IACONO VINCENZA

126 )     

IACOVINO COSTANTINO

127 )     

IENCINELLA GIULIO

128 )     

IMBERTI FRANCO

129 )     

IZZI GIUSEPPE

130 )     

LALLI CONCETTA Erede PERROTTA ANTONIO

131 )     

LAMPUGNANI ERMINIO

132 )     

LAZZARO MARIO

133 )     

LITTERIO MARIA Erede CARRIERO ERMENEGILDO

134 )     

LIZZA GIUSEPPE

135 )     

LODOLA GUIDO

136 )     

LOMBARDO FULVIO

137 )     

MALCHIODI ANTONIO

138 )     

MALCHIODI GIOVANNI

139 )     

MARCHESIN ITALO

140 )     

MARINETTO SEVERINO

141 )     

MASO GIORDANO

142 )     

MASSARI ANSELMO

143 )     

MASSIMINO ORAZIO

144 )     

MAZZA ARISTIDE

145 )     

MAZZONE CARLO

146 )     

MELANDRI VOLFANO

147 )     

MELONI LUIGI

148 )     

MENICHELLI ONESTO

149 )     

MERLI GIUSEPPE

150 )     

MILANESE CESARE

151 )     

MOLINARI ADRIANO

152 )     

MOLINARI MARIO

153 )     

MONGARETTO ALDO

154 )     

MONTAGNA PAOLO

155 )     

MORNI ORLANDO

156 )     

MORO RAIMONDO

157 )     

MURDOCCA ALFREDO

158 )     

NEGRINI RENZO

159 )     

NEMBRINI GIUSEPPE

160 )     

NOCENT MARIO

161 )     

OCCHIONI GIOVANNI

162 )     

ONNIS ALBERTO

163 )     

ONTANI ALFREDO

164 )     

OTO SILVIO

165 )     

PAGNONCELLI GIULIANO

166 )     

PANZERI BENVENUTO STEFANO

167 )     

PARISI MARIANO

168 )     

PASETTI MARIO

169 )     

PASSADORI FRANCESCO

170 )     

PASSERA PIETRO

171 )     

PAVAN PASQUALE

172 )     

PELLICONI EGISTO

173 )     

PERACCHI LINO ROMUALDO

174 )     

PERRONE ANGELO

175 )     

PEZZA GIUSEPPE

176 )     

PEZZIN NARCISO

177 )     

PIAZZA BATTISTA

178 )     

PIROVANO BRUNO

179 )     

PIVA LUIGI

180 )     

POCHINTESTA CARLO

181 )     

POCHINTESTA TRENTO

182 )     

POSULO ANTONIO

183 )     

POZZI VENTURINA

184 )     

PROVINI DOMENICO

185 )     

PULCINI GIUSEPPE

186 )     

PULZATO CESARE

187 )     

QUARTESAN FERMO

188 )     

QUERCETTI AMELIA Erede MARASCA

189 )     

RAMPADO ARDEMIO

190 )     

RAPUANO CIRO

191 )     

RASPINI PIETRO ANTONIO

192 )     

RAVELLINI ALFREDO

193 )     

RE SEBASTIANO

194 )     

RENATO ALBERTO

195 )     

RESTA MARIO

196 )     

RICCI ALDO

197 )     

RIO GIAN RICCARDO

198 )     

RIZZI PIETRO

199 )     

ROCCA MARCO

200 )     

ROGNONI MARIO

201 )     

ROMANO UGO MARCELLO

202 )     

ROSSETTI ANGELO

203 )     

ROSSI ELIO

204 )     

ROSSI GAETANO

205 )     

ROTA AMOS

206 )     

ROTTEGLIA MARIO

207 )     

SABBINI GIOVANNI

208 )     

SAGGIORATO ELVIO

209 )     

SALA GIOVANNI

210 )     

SALVAGNO VINICIO

211 )     

SAMORE’ CRISPINO

212 )     

SANTELLA GIUSEPPE

213 )     

SANTI DOMENICO

214 )     

SARGIANI BRUNO

215 )     

SARTOR BRUNO

216 )     

SATURNO MARIO

217 )     

SCAGNELLI ROSA Erede SCAGNELLI BENVENUTO

218 )     

SCALONI VINCENZO

219 )     

SCANDELLA MARIO

220 )     

SCHINCARIOL ANTONIO

221 )     

SCIDA’ DOMENICO CARMELO

222 )     

SCOCCA PASQUALE

223 )     

SEBASTIANI LEANDRO

224 )     

SEMERIA ARMANDO

225 )     

SOLARI PRIMO

226 )     

SOMMARUGA CLAUDIO

227 )     

SORAVIA ENZO

228 )     

SPADA DANTE

229 )     

SPEDINI GIUSEPPE

230 )     

SPIDALIERI MARIO ALBERTO

231 )     

SPINELLI GIUSEPPE

232 )     

STALZER MARIO

233 )     

STEFANI BRUNO

234 )     

STEFFAN GIUSEPPE

235 )     

STRADIOTTO GUIDO

236 )     

TADINI PIETRO

237 )     

TAGLIAPIETRA LUIGI

238 )     

TAGLIAPIETRA VALDIMIRO

239 )     

TINELLI UGO

240 )     

TIRANTI AMELEO

241 )     

TOFFANIN LEANDRO

242 )     

TON CESARE

243 )     

TRENTIN ILARIO

244 )     

TREVISIOL LAURA Erede MAURIZI ENRICI GIOVANNI

245 )     

TRIDA EVARISTO

246 )     

TUIS GIANNINO

247 )     

VALONCINI PIETRO

248 )     

VANDONI GIAMBATTISTA

249 )     

VASSALLI GIACOMO

250 )     

VECCHIARELLI PIETRO

251 )     

VENEZIA SABINO

252 )     

VENTURI CESARE

253 )     

VERDONE GIUSEPPE

254 )     

VIAGGI RICCARDO

255 )     

VINCENZI UMBERTO

256 )     

VIRONE LUIGI

257 )     

VITALI DIEGO

258 )     

VITULLO GIOVANNI

259 )     

VODARICH ANTONIO

260 )     

VOLLMAN EDOARDO

261 )     

WEGHER CIRO

262 )     

ZANARDO SILLA

263 )     

ZANCHETTA AGOSTINO

264 )     

ZANELLA FRANCESCO

265 )     

ZANIBONI LUIGI

266 )     

ZANOTTI GIANNINO

267 )     

ZEOLI INCORONATA

Erede CRISTOFANO DOMENICO

268 )     

ZINETTI FRANCO

269 )     

ZOJA ANGELO

270 )     

ZOZZOLI VITTORIO

271 )     

ZUCCHI PAOLO

2 )     

271)  FERRINI Luigi, born on 12 May 1926

272) BASILE Antonio, born on 14 February 1923

273) MALBERTO Giacomo born on 12 April 1921

274) ACCIDINI Luciano, born on 17.September 1925

275) CORRÀ Sebastiano, born on 8 September 1927

276) DELLA PIAZZA Nicola , born on 13 January 1925

ASSOCIAZIONE NAZIONALE REDUCI v. GERMANY DECISION


ASSOCIAZIONE NAZIONALE REDUCI v. GERMANY DECISION