X {Ex parte}

Bruges First Instance Tribunal, X, 14/1508/B, 23 November 2015

The Tribunal examined a request of a man of Palestinian origin seeking recognition as a stateless person. Since statelessness presupposes an absence of ‘nationality’, and ‘nationality’ in turn necessitates a connection between an individual and a ‘State’, the Tribunal needed to determine whether Palestine qualified as such. Starting from the four cumulative conditions of the 1993 Montevideo Convention, the Tribunal accepts that Palestine fulfils the requirements of a permanent population and a defined (even if fragmented) territory. By contrast, it is less clear whether the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) qualifies as an ‘effective government’, since it only has limited powers and Israel still controls their airways, external borders, territorial waters, national registrations, taxes and functions in the government itself. In any case, according to the Tribunal, fulfilment of the Montevideo criteria is ‘manifestly meaningless’ if the Palestinian State is not internationally recognized. As a significant number of countries, including Belgium itself, has not recognized Palestine as such, the Tribunal cannot under present circumstances establish the exisence of a sovereign Palestinian State. It follows that the applicant cannot be seen as having the ‘Palestinian nationality’ and must be regarded as being stateless.  

Rb. Brugge 23 november 2015, T.Vreemd 2016, afl. 2, 223.
AGENTSCHAP INTEGRATIE EN INBURGERING, “Palestijnse nationaliteit wordt niet erkend, staatloosheid dus niet uitgesloten”, T.Vreemd 2016, 509-510.

NML Capital Ltd v Republic of Argentina

Belgian Supreme Court, NML Capital Ltd v Republic of Argentina, Nr. C.13.0537.F, 11 December 2014
ECLI:BE:CASS:2014:ARR.20141211.4 

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.


Republic of Argentina v NMC Capital Ltd

Belgian Supreme Court, Republic of Argentina v. NMC Capital LTD, Nr. C.11.0688.F, 22 November 2012
ECLI:BE:CASS:2012:ARR.20121122.3

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.


Confederation of Christian Trade Unions and General Federation of Labour of Belgium v United States

Labour Court of Appeal Brussels, Confederation of Christian Trade Unions and General Federation of Labour of Belgium v United States, A.R. 2010/AB/1214, 3 May 2012
ECLI:BE:CTBRL:2012:ARR.20120503.14

The jurisdictional immunity of states is a rule of customary international law that prohibits the jurisdictions of one state from exercising its jurisdictional power over another state that has not consented. However, this immunity is limited: it concerns acts relating to sovereignty, not administration. In principle, the states may not invoke jurisdictional immunity before a court of another state in proceedings relating to employment contracts. However, no exception to the states’ jurisdictional immunity is provided for collective labor relations. Disputes concerning the regulations on the establishment of works councils are collective and not individual. The primacy of access to justice (Article 6 of the ECHR) over the rule of jurisdictional immunity and immunity from execution presupposes that the person against whom the immunity is asserted does not have other reasonable means of effectively obtaining the protection of the rights guaranteed to him by the ECHR. What matters in this regard is not that an action can be brought in the state of residence of the plaintiffs or that certainty is provided as to the application of the law of that state by the foreign jurisdiction, but that that jurisdiction (or the body of the international organization to which an internal action can be brought, as in the cases submitted to the Supreme Court) provides the guarantees of impartiality and independence of the court.


M.-N.F., I.S. et al. v Kingdom of Belgium, M.L. et al.

Brussels First Instance Tribunal, M.-N.F., I.S. et al. v Kingdom of Belgium, M.L. et al., Nr. 04/4807/A, 8 December 2010

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. Several relatives of the victims brought  proceedings against the Belgian government and three former officers of the Belgian ‘KIBAT’ contingent seeking compensation. In its interlocutory judgement, the Court dismisses objections that the claims had expired. In addition, the Court asserts that the decision to evacuate the ‘ETO’ school facility was taken under the auspices of the Belgian government and not UNAMIR. Furthermore, the Court emphasizes that the defendants could not harbor any illusions as to the fate that awaited the refugees upon the withdrawal of the Belgian peacekeepers, and that the Rwandan refugees had lost a chance of survival as a result of the retreat of KIBAT.

C. RYNGAERT, Oxford Reports on International Law in Domestic Courts, 2010, 1604.