Belgian Supreme Court, A. A., Nr. P.18.1301.N, 2 January 2019
The case concerns an Iranian diplomat working at the embassy in Vienna (Austria), who was arrested in Germany and extradited to Belgium to face criminal charges for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. The Court acknowledges that diplomats enjoy inviolability when they are ‘in transit’ to or from the receiving State as part of their diplomatic assignment pursuant to Article 40(1) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. However, this inviolability does not apply where a diplomat returns to the receiving State from a holiday in a third country.
Supreme Court, M.R. v La Posterie, Nr. C.16.0039.N, 28 October 2016
The Belgian Supreme Court adjudges that the immunity of jurisdiction of a member of the United States Permanent Representation to NATO (as per Article XII of the Ottawa Agreement and Articles 29-31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR)) does not violate the right of access to court (Article 6 ECHR). In a case involving a dispute over the payment of rent arrears, the lower court had previously held that such immunity would violate the right of access to court, in light of the fact that the proceedings would “in no way compromise” the proper functioning of the US Permanent Representation or NATO itself. According to the Supreme Court, however, this approach was not legally justifiable. The Supreme Court further recalls that lawsuits regarding the lease of a private home do not fall within the exception to immunity from jurisdiction under Article 31 (1) (a) VCDR.
Belgian Supreme Court, M.E.Y. v O.R.V.; F.B. v Politiezone nr. 5340 Brussel-West, D.B. et al, Nr. P.16.0244.N, 24 May 2016
The case concerns an action for annulment brought against a judgment of the Antwerp Court of Appeals finding the applicants guilty of terrorist offences under the Belgian Criminal Code in connection with their involvement in islamist terrorist groups abroad. In particular, the applicants unsuccesfully raise breaches of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, Article 141bis of the Belgian Criminal Code, Article 7 ECHR and the principle of legality. All claims are, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Pursuant to Article 141bis of the Criminal Code, the provisions pertaining to terrorist offences do not apply to the conduct of armed forces during an armed conflict. Such ‘armed conflict’ exists whenever when there is armed violence between States or protracted armed violence between State authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State. The existence of a non-international armed conflict is determined primarily in light of the intensity of the conflict and the degree of organization of the parties involved. Other criteria cited by international jurisprudence are merely indicative criteria that can be used to interpret the requirements of intensity and organization. The appraisal of these criteria in a given case is a matter for the judge of the merits, and is not subject to review by the Supreme Court (as long as proper statement of reasons is provided).
Belgian Supreme Court, NML Capital Ltd v Republic of Argentina, Nr. C.13.0537.F, 11 December 2014
According to the Court, the right of access to court, as enshrined in Article 6 ECHR, cannot be invoked to force a State to set aside the customary rule of immunity from execution, which seeks to ensure the proper functioning of diplomatic missions and to promote friendly relations between sovereign States. The Court rejects the argument that immunity from execution must be set aside when no alternative means of legal redress are available.
Belgian Supreme Court, Republic of Argentina v. NMC Capital LTD, Nr. C.11.0688.F, 22 November 2012
The judgment annuls a previous judgment by the Brussels Court of Appeals dated 21 June 2011. In the latter judgment , the Court of Appeals took the view that Argentina’s general waiver of immunity from jurisdiction and immunity from execution also covered the goods of Argentina’s diplomatic mission in Belgium, including its bank accounts (without there being a need to verify whether the amounts seized were used for purposes other than the functioning of the diplomatic mission). According to the Supreme Court, this approach violated articles 22, 3 and 25 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the customary rule of ‘ne impediatur legatio’. In particular, the Supreme Court confirmed the need for an explicit and specific waiver of immunity in respect of goods of the diplomatic mission.