Brussels Court of Appeal, M.-N. F. et al. v M.L. et al., Nr. 2011 AR 292, 8 June 2018
In the early days of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, an estimated 2.000 men, women and children were massacred when a Belgian contingent of the UNAMIR peacekeeping operation abandoned the school facility where these persons had sought refuge. In the appeals procedure brought by the Belgian government as well as three former officers of the Belgian ‘KIBAT’ contingent against a prior interlocutory judgment, the Brussels Court of Appeal examined to whom the conduct of KIBAT may be imputed. In so doing, the Court affirms that responsibility for the conduct of UN peacekeepers can shift from the United Nations to the Troop-Contributing Country (TCC) if the latter exercises effective control over its national troops. The Court further draws a comparison with the conduct of the Dutch UNPROFOR battalion in the Mothers of Srebrenica proceedings in the Netherlands, but finds that the circumstances are different. In particular, it has not been established that the KIBAT soldiers left the ‘ETO’ school facility pursuant to the decision of the Belgian Government to withdraw from the UNAMIR operation. According to the Court, the imputability of the conduct of KIBAT did not transfer to the Kingdom of Belgium, as the UN retained effective control over its own troops. Consequently, the Belgian officers who gave the order to withdraw from the ETO school facility did so in their capacity as members of UNAMIR and enjoyed immunity from jurisdiction, whereas the claims brought against the Kingdom of Belgium were unfounded.
T. RUYS, L. FERRO, "Wie is verantwoordelijk voor het optreden van VN-blauwhelmen? De Rwandese genocide en de Belgische terugtrekking uit de Ecole Technique Officielle Don Bosco", Rechtskundig Weekblad 2020, Vol. 83, 1516-1519.
T. RUYS, "Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira and Others v. Belgium and Others", American Journal of International Law 2020, Vol. 114, 268-275.
Brussels Labourt Court, N.A. v African Union, Nr. 16/7777/A, 10 January 2018
The plaintiff, who had worked for the Permanent Mission of the African Union in Brussels based on successive short-term contracts, was disputing the termination of his appointment. The Brussels Labour Court upheld the African Union’s immunity from jurisdiction pursuant to a 1985 headquarters agreement concluded with Belgium. The plaintiff had sought to challenge the immunity based on the individual’s right of access to a court (Art. 6 ECHR). However, the Court held that neither the African Union nor its Member States are bound by the ECHR; that the Belgian State, by approving the headquarters agreement and the immunity it provides for, had intended to depart from Article 6 of the (previously ratified) ECHR; and that, at any rate, the restriction on the plaintiff’s right of access to a court was not disproportionate since he had several reasonable alternative remedies available to him – including an appeal before the African Union’s Administrative Tribunal – which he refrained from using.
Council Chamber of the Tribunal of First Instance, Federal Prosecutor, Republic of Turkey and F.A. v U.S, K.R. et al., 3 November 2016
The Council Chamber of the Tribunal of First Instance adjudges that the PKK should be considered as a non-State armed group that is party to a non-international armed conflict with the Turkish State under international humanitarian law (IHL). In accordance with the IHL exclusion clause of Article 141bis of the Belgian Criminal Code, this qualification entails that the 42 defendants cannot be prosecuted for ‘terrorist offences’ in connection with their involvement in that conflict as members of the PKK.
In order to establish the intensity and degree of organization required to conclude to the existence of a non-international armed conflict, the Chamber (implicitly) draws from a range of factors, including: the PKK’s armed activities since 1984, the high number of these activities, the use of heavy weapons, the existence of a chain of command, the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the formal initiative undertaken by the PKK to comply with international conventions, the territorial control of the PKK over parts of South-East of Turkey (as demonstrated by a call for armistice by the PKK leader in 2013), as well as the conduct of negotiations between the PKK and Turkey.
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).