Supreme Court, H.S., Nr. P.22.0053.N, 14 June 2022
The Belgian Supreme Court rejects the claim that the judgment of the Antwerp Court of Appeal of 22 December 2021 violated the duty to state reasons by holding, on the one hand, that Islamic State (IS) qualified as a ‘terrorist group’ in the sense of Articles 139 and 140 of the Criminal Code, pertaining to the prosecution of terrorist offences, but did not constitute ‘armed forces’ in the sense of Article 141bis of the same Code (which excludes members of armed forces involved in an armed conflict from prosecution for terrorist offences). The Supreme Court held that the notion of ‘armed forces’ in the sense of Article 141bis must be understood in light of the requirements of intensity and organization under international humanitarian law (IHL), and is distinct from the notion of ‘terrorist group’. The Supreme Court recalls the various reasons that led the Antwerp Court of Appeal to conclude that IS lacked the required degree of organization to be considered an ‘armed force’, including e.g. the lack of a single headquarters or command structure; the large number of foreign fighters operating without a clear overarching command, or; the practice of random detentions in lieu of disciplinary rules as envisaged under IHL. The Supreme Court concludes that the contested judgment was duly motivated.