Brazil: immunity of Germany waived in case of fishing boat attacked by submarine in 1943

The Supreme Federal Court (STF) of Brazil upheld the appeal of family members of a fisherman who want the Federal Republic of Germany to compensate them for his death in 1943, when a fishing boat was sunk by a German submarine off the Brazilian coast. By majority vote, the STF established the thesis that unlawful acts committed by foreign States in violation of human rights do not enjoy immunity from jurisdiction in Brazil. Reference: (ARE) 954858.

The attack on the fishing boat Changri-lá killed ten fishermen in July 1943, during World War II, in Brazilian territorial sea, near Cabo Frio (RJ). In 2001, the Maritime Court officially recognized that the cause of the wreck was the torpedoing of the vessel by a German U-199 submarine, leading the grandchildren and widows of one of the fishermen’s grandchildren to file, in 2006, an action for compensation for material and moral damages. In the first instance, the action for reparation was dismissed without a resolution on the merits. The family appealed to the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), but the appeal was not admitted based on the jurisprudence of that Court, which prevents the foreign State from being held liable for an act of war.

A press release from the STF is available here and the judgment (in Portuguese), which was made public on 24 September 2021, can be read here.

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Filed under Jurisprudence, State Practice

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