Brussels First Instance Tribunal, L., M. et al. v Kingdom of Belgium, Nr. 20/4655/A, 8 December 2021
This case revolves around a claim issued by 5 people with Congolese roots against the Belgian state in connection with Belgium’s colonial past in Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All claimants had been committed into a religious institute and hence separated from their family as children between 1948 and 1961. At the time, placing Métis (mixed-race parentage) children in religious institutes was routine practice. The claimants’ position that this segregation epitomized a crime against humanity, based on which they were entitled to compensation, was, however, held to be unfounded. Having regard to the principle of legality, the Tribunal rather found that the placement of people in such religious institutions for racial reasons did not amount to a crime against humanity at the time. Acknowledging that the concept of crimes against humanity had gradually broadened over time, however, the court added that if these actions were to occur today, they would likely be seen as such.
Supreme Court, K.E. and G.E. v Prosecutor, Nr. C.21.0095.F, 19 November 2021
The Belgian Supreme Court examines a judgement concerning the existence of Palestine as a State. The Court recalls that the 1933 Montevideo Convention is to be considered as codified customary international law and therefore applicable in the Belgian legal system. The first article of the Convention prescribes four criteria which States should fulfil in order to exist, regardless of any recognition by third States. Consequently, Belgian courts have the authority to apply and interpret this article without this interpretation becoming neither a general and legal rule nor any kind of recognition by the Belgian State. Hence, the Court adjudges that the understanding of article 1 applied to the State of Palestine in the underlying judgement was legally constituted and therefore dismisses the appeal in cassation as unfounded.
Brussels Labour Court of Appeals, B.A.M. v Republic of Indonesia, Nr. 2018/AB/868, 2 November 2021
The plaintiff, a former member of the service staff at the Indonesian embassy in Brussels, was challenging his dismissal. Affirming the appealed judgment, the Brussels Labour Court of Appeals upheld Indonesia’s State immunity from jurisdiction. With a view to determining the applicable rules of customary international law, the Court relied upon the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. More specifically, it focused on Article 11(2)(e), which maintains the immunity where the employee is a national of the employer State – the plaintiff had indeed Indonesian citizenship. The Court considered that the limitation in Article 11(2)(e), that sets immunity aside where the employee has its permanent residence in the State of the forum, does not reflect an existing rule of customary international law. The Court went on to add that, in any event, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a permanent residence in Belgium at the time when the proceedings were instituted.
Brussels First Instance Tribunal, Labour Prosecutor et al. v X et al., Nr. 21.N.003187, 15 December 2021
A former diplomat and his wife are condemned in absentia for the crimes of human trafficking and unlawful imprisonment on account of their exploitation of a domestic worker. The Tribunal asserts that, pursuant to Article 39 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomat whose function has come to an end enjoys immunity only in respect of those acts that were performed in the exercise of this function. The exploitation of domestic workers in the diplomat’s private residence does not qualify as such, and is accordingly not covered by diplomatic immunity.
Supreme Court, X and X v Prosecutor, Nr. C.20.0482.N, 26 February 2021
In this case, two applicants instituted an appeal in cassation against a judgement of the Ghent Court of Appeal of 28 March 2019 denying their request for recognition as stateless persons. According to the Court of Appeal the applicants could not be regarded as stateless persons because they were considered as Palestinian nationals by the State of Palestine in accordance with applicable law. As the Palestinian law referred to was not specified in the judgment itself, the Court of Cassation quashed the judgment because of an inadequate statement of reasons.
AGENTSCHAP INTEGRATIE & INBURGERING, “HvC verbreekt arrest dat naar Palestijnse nationaliteitswetteving verwijst”, 2021, www.agii.be/nieuws/hvc-verbreekt-arrest-dat-naar-palestijnse-nationaliteitswetgeving-verwijst.