Brussels Assize Court, Prosecutor v. N.F., Nr. FD30-98.102/02, 19 December 2019
In this criminal judgment, a jury considered the question of guilt of the accused, N.F, for acts committed during the Rwandan genocide. Based on several witness statements, the jury concluded that the accused was guilty of the crime of genocide and fifteen counts of war crimes. Specifically, it was found that the accused provided assistance in the deliberate killing of members of the Tutsi ethnic group, such that without his assistance these crimes could not have been committed. The members killed were protected by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and, consequently, their killing constituted a war crime. These war crimes were moreover part of the genocide of the Tutsis, and the jury found that the evidence presented proved that the accused held a genocidal intent. Conversely, the jury did not find the accused guilty of two counts of war cirmes with which he was charged for lack of information.
The judgment determines the criminal penalty of N.F., who was previously found guilty of genocide and fifteen counts of war crimes. The judgement states that N.F. benefits from mitigating circumstances because of his age. Ultimately, N.F. is sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. The penalty is decided on the basis of the gravity of the crimes committed, which are so serious that they have harmed the whole of humanity and threatened the peace, security and well-being of the world. Moreover, N.F. showed himself to be a leader with a will to exterminate the Tutsi population and incited others to do so as well. Finally, N.F. did not show any indications of having questioned his actions. On the contrary, during the trial, he continued to convey his genocidal ideology. This revealed him to pose a current and specific danger to society.
Brussels First Instance Tribunal, Baghouri et al. v Kingdom of Belgium, Nr. 2019/*/C, 11 December 2019
Several parents with Belgian citizenship staying at the Al-Hol refugee/detention camp in Syria claim that the Belgian State should be held liable to undertake all feasible measures to ensure the repatriation of their minor children and themselves.
The Tribunal of First Instance confirms that, since the entry into force of the Law of 9 May 2018, consular assistance is no longer a mere privilege, but a subjective right on the part of individuals covered by the Belgian Consular Code. This right, however, is not deemed to be absolute. Article 83 of the Consular Code indeed imposes several grounds for exclusion, including with respect to individuals who knowingly travel to a region where an armed conflict is ongoing. This manifestly applies to the plaintiffs, but not to their minor children, who should not bear the consequences of their parents’ acts, and who remain fully entitled to consular assistance.
In addition, the Tribunal rules that, given the severe neglect of their children by taking them into life-threatening war zone, the plaintiffs cannot invoke the children’s interest in not being separated from their parents against their will under Article 9 of the Convention of the Rights (CRC) of the Child in order to claim any right to assistance for themselves. The Tribunal confirms that neither the plaintiffs, nor their children, come within the jurisdiction of the Belgian State in the sense of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Based on the accumulation of international obligations assumed by the Belgian State (e.g. under the CRC and the Convention on Statelessness), and given the specific factual circumstances of the case, the Tribunal finds that the Belgian State is required to provide the children with the necessary administrative, identity and/or travel documents, to enable them to travel under supervision from Syria to Belgium.
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.
Brussels Court of Appeal, G. v. Kingdom of Belgium, Nr. 2019/KR/5, 19 December 2018
This case concerns an appeal by the Belgian State against the order on provisional measures in G. v. Kingdom of Belgium, which held that the Belgian state must enable two children born in Syria to travel to Belgium based on Belgium’s international obligations. While the judgment had been implemented and the children had been brought to Belgium, the Belgian State nonetheless claimed the initial order set a flawed precedent.
The Court of Appeal asserted that the mother’s original claim did fall under the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts as it concerned the subjective rights of children based on international law instruments. Furthermore, it ruled that the court of first instance did not exceed its jurisdiction by ruling that the children should be enabled to travel to Belgium even though the conditions of national law were not fulfilled, as it did so to avoid violations of their rights provided for by international law. On the other hand, the Court agreed with the Belgian State that the requirement of urgency for a summary procedure had not been fulfilled.
Brussels Court of Appeal, Prosecutor v A.I., B.H. et al., 2017 FC 1, 26 February 2019
The case concerned several individuals accused of terrorist offences on account of their alleged involvement in a terrorist group operating in Chechnya. The Court held that Article 6(3)(a) ECHR (the right to a fair trial) does not imply that the indictment must state all the concrete information from which the existence of the personal involvement of the accused can be derived. In casu, the charges were sufficiently clear and unambiguous. The Brussels Court of Appeal held, however, that there were no indications that the defendants were indeed guilty of the crimes charged. Accordingly, there was no need to inquire whether the ‘terrorism exception’ of Article 141bis of the Belgian Criminal Code, relating to acts of armed forces during an armed conflict, was applicable.