According to the principle of intertemporality, a legal question has to be assessed on the basis of the laws in effect at the relevant time. This is aimed at ensuring legal certainty and is thus in many cases desirable. However, the application of this principle can sometimes mean, for example, that crimes committed during the colonization of Africa and South America are assessed not in line with today's legal standards but rather in accordance with the racist and discriminating laws of the colonizing powers of the time.
German courts recognize exceptions to the application of this principle in some constellations, specifically to avoid the application of certain Nazi-era laws or the laws of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). In other areas, including when it comes to the legal classification of colonial crimes, historical injustices continue to be concealed or legitimized through the application of the principle of intertemporality.