Practice Relating to Rule 151. Individual Responsibility
Section A. Individual criminal responsibility
Italy’s IHL Manual (1991) states that individual criminal responsibility for those who commit a war crime is provided for under Italian law.
Italy’s Wartime Military Penal Code (1941) provides for the punishment of a list of various offences related to wartime activity.
In the Priebke case
in 1996, Italy’s Military Tribunal of Rome found a German soldier and former member of the “SS” guilty of multiple first-degree murder charges, acts which it qualified as war crimes, for his role and participation in the 1944 Ardeatine caves killings when 335 persons (both civilians and members of the armed forces) were killed in reprisal for the killing of 33 German soldiers. The Tribunal considered the reprisal to be disproportionate to the acts which had led to the reprisal, and Priebke was found responsible for having drawn up a list of the names of the victims to be killed, for having checked the identity of the victims being transferred to the place of the killings, and for having shot two of the victims himself. However, the Tribunal found that the accused could not be punished for reasons of statute of limitations.
On appeal, the judgment was annulled by the Supreme Court of Cassation and another trial ordered.
In the Hass and Priebke case
in 1997 dealing with the same events as in the Priebke case
, Italy’s Military Tribunal of Rome found the accused guilty of multiple charges of aggravated murder for their respective roles in the reprisal killings. It sentenced the accused for war crimes to imprisonment.
In its relevant parts, the judgment was confirmed by the Military Appeals Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation, although the Courts settled on life imprisonment.
In the Ercole case
in 2000, Italy’s Tribunal of Livorno tried and sentenced a former paratrooper to 18 months’ suspended imprisonment for abusing his authority during his participation in a multinational peacekeeping operation in Somalia and, pending the outcome of connected civil proceedings, made him provisionally liable to the payment of 30,000,000 Italian lire to a Somali citizen who had been tortured.
However, in 2001, the Court of Appeals at Florence declared that a crime of abuse of authority was covered by statutory limitations.