Liège First Instance Tribunal, X, Nr. 20/770/B, 5 February 2021
The Tribunal assessed wether a man of Palestinian origin, as well as his underage children, could be recognized as stateless persons. According to the Tribunal, the inconsistent Belgian case-law on the question whether Palestine qualified as a State rendered it necessary to refer to the position of the organ constitutionally competent in the matter, i.e., the Belgian federal government. In light of the government’s refusal to recognize Palestine as a State, any attempt at indirect recognition of Palestinian statehood by the judiciary was in vain. The Tribunal accordingly confirmed the applicants should be regarded as being stateless in the sense of the 1954 New York Convention.
Antwerp First Instance Tribunal, Prosecutor v A.S., N.N. et al, 20/A/3763, 4 February 2021
The Tribunal of First Instance imposes heavy prison sentences on four individuals of Iranian origin, including an diplomat accredited to the Iranian embassy in Austria, for planning a terrorist attack. The Tribunal finds that the diplomat cannot invoke immunity from jurisdiction under Article 31 VCDR, since this only applies in the bilateral relationship between the sending and the receiving State. In addition, the diplomat was not in transit in the sense of Article 40 VCDR. This provision must be read restrictively, and does not extend to situations where a diplomat is on a holiday abroad. The Tribunal also observes that the activities of which the diplomat is accused cannot form part of the normal diplomatic function, and that it cannot have been the intention of the States parties to the VCDR for such acts to be covered by diplomatic immunity.
According to the Tribunal, the immunity of Iran itself is not triggered since Iran or its secret service are not a party to the proceedings. With respect to the residual functional immunity of the diplomat as a State organ, the Tribunal asserts that such immunity extends only to acts performed in the exercise of official functions. The planning of a terrorist attack can be presumed not to be part of such tasks. Nor did Iran claim responsibility for this conduct. In any case, the Tribunal finds it difficult to accept that there is an exception to State immunity for commercial acts, but not for crimes against humanity that flout the basic right to life.
Brussels Labour Court of Appeal, Sipos Szabo v North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Kingdom of Belgium, 2018/AB/22, 28 October 2020
The case concerned a medical doctor who claimed an entitlement under NATO’s Civilian Personnel Regulation (CPR) to an indefinite contract and had brought its claims before NATO’s Administrative Tribunal. NATO’s Tribunal ruled it had no jurisdiction to entertain the claims because the plaintiff concluded successive sui generis contracts that NATO was entitled to offer. Those contracts did not bring the plaintiff within the realm of the CPR, while the jurisdiction of NATO’s Tribunal is limited to alleged breaches of the CPR. The plaintiff brought her claims before Belgian courts, host nation of NATO, and argued on the basis of ECtHR case-law relating to the interplay between the right to a judge and International Organizations’ immunity that NATO’s immunity must be set aside because she did not have access to an effective remedy within NATO’s legal system as NATO’s Tribunal declared itself without jurisdiction and arguably did not consider the merits of her claims. NATO’s immunity was upheld before Brussels’ Labour Tribunal and, on appeal, by the Brussels Labour Court of Appeal which agreed with NATO that the plaintiff’s argument was based on a wrong premise, that NATO’s internal justice system was effective and independent, that the plaintiff was heard and received an articulated legal answer to her claims following due process.
Brussels First Instance Tribunal, A. et al v Kingdom of Belgium, Nr. 2020-14-C, 29 April 2020
This case concerns a man who travelled to Syria in 2013 and who was detained in the prison of Al-Hasakah by the Syrian-Kurdish authorities. Relying on several human rights and humanitarian treaties, the man claimed that the Belgian government was under an obligation to repatriate him from Syria. The Tribunal nonetheless held that the applicant was not within the ‘jurisdiction’ of the Belgian State, and that he could also not rely on the Geneva Conventions or the ICC Rome Statute since Belgium was not a party to the armed conflict in Syria. The Tribunal further held that, having travelled to Syria on his own initiative, the applicant was not entitled to consular assistance pursuant to Article 83 of the Belgian Consular Code.
Brussels Court of Appeal, Kingdom of Belgium v E. M., Nr. 2020 KR 3, 5 March 2020
This case concerns a Belgian woman who had travelled to Syria to join her partner and claimed to have given birth to a son there. Held in the camp of Al-Hol, operated by the Kurdish authorities, she sued the Belgian State to repatriate her son and herself from Syria. The Court of Appeal of Brussels ruled that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs providing for the repatriation of all Belgian children up to ten years old from Syrian territory created a subjective right prone to judicial review. Further, having regard to Article 22bis(4) of the Belgian Constitution as well as Article 3(1) of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the government’s discretionary power to exercise the right to consular assistance was limited by the child’s best interests. Having regard to the fact that the Kurdish authorities controlled the Al-Hol camp and could determine the modalities for repatriation, the Court found that Belgium did not exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction in the sense of the ECHR or the ICCPR. Nor did the human right to enter one’s own country entail a positive obligation on the part of the State to ensure repatriation.
L. DE BRUCKER, “Het recht op consulaire bijstand vanuit nationaal-, Europees- en internationaalrechtelijk perspectief. Naar een subjectief recht op repatriëring voor kinderen van Syriëstrijders?”, Tijdschrift voor Jeugd- en Kinderrechten 2020, 194-210.