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Italy’s Compliance With ICJ Decisions vs. Constitutional Guarantees: does the “Counter-limits” Doctrine matter?

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image of The Italian Yearbook of International Law Online

One of the most common obstacles to the domestic enforcement of international decisions is represented by the presence of a constitutional impediment. Indeed, most national constitutions, though open to international law, can prevent the implementation of an international decision, insofar as the latter conflicts with the basic principles of the constitutional order. This article argues that in such cases it is necessary to preserve a space where the State continues to retain full sovereignty and whose protection acts as an unbreakable “counter-limit” to the limitations deriving from the international legal order (“counter-limits” doctrine). Yet recent judicial and legislative practice in Italy concerning the implementation of the ICJ decision in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State seem to overlook the need to preserve this “space”. As a consequence, certain fundamental constitutional guarantees, such as the right of access to justice, the rule of res judicata and the principle of non-retroactivity of the law, have inescapably ended up being compromised.


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