Brussels Labour Court of Appeals, B.A.M. v Republic of Indonesia, Nr. 2018/AB/868, 2 November 2021
The plaintiff, a former member of the service staff at the Indonesian embassy in Brussels, was challenging his dismissal. Affirming the appealed judgment, the Brussels Labour Court of Appeals upheld Indonesia’s State immunity from jurisdiction. With a view to determining the applicable rules of customary international law, the Court relied upon the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. More specifically, it focused on Article 11(2)(e), which maintains the immunity where the employee is a national of the employer State – the plaintiff had indeed Indonesian citizenship. The Court considered that the limitation in Article 11(2)(e), that sets immunity aside where the employee has its permanent residence in the State of the forum, does not reflect an existing rule of customary international law. The Court went on to add that, in any event, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a permanent residence in Belgium at the time when the proceedings were instituted.
Supreme Court, United States of America v P.V.N., Nr. S.15.0051.N/2, 4 March 2019
The Belgian Supreme Court examines a judgement of the Brussels Labour Court of Appeal. The case concerns a dispute involving an employment contract between the USA and a private person, P.V.N., who worked for the US embassy in Belgium and demanded compensation after being dismissed in 2010.
The Supreme Court holds that, according to international customary law and, as provided by Article 11(1) of the 2004 Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property, a foreign state can only invoke immunity from jurisdiction in the context of employment disputes when a number of criteria are met, including that a person must be appointed for the performance of certain acts performed in the exercise of public authority (‘acta jure imperii’).
The Brussels Court of Appeal previously established that, while the defendant performed certain preparatory acts with regard to acts involving the exercise of public authority, he did not have the authority to sign and bind the USA. Consequently, such acts could not of themselves be considered to entail the exercise of public authority for which immunity from jurisdiction can be invoked. The Supreme Court confirms that the judgement of the Court of Appeal was properly motivated.
Constitutional Court, NML Capital Ltd & Yukos Universal Limited, Nr. 48/2017, 27 April 2017
The Constitutional Court examines two actions for annulment filed by the companies NML Capital and Yukos Universal against the law of 23 August 2015 introducing Article 1412quinquies of the Judicial Code, which provides for a far-reaching immunity from execution for property of foreign States or international organizations. In light of the case-law of the Strasbourg Court, the Court acknowledges that restrictions on the right to access to Court and the right to property that stem from immunity of execution for property of foreign States are accepted inasmuch as they reflect generally recognized international immunity rules. What is more, Article 19 of the 2004 UN Convention on State Immunity, while not yet in force, can be regarded as indicative of present international custom on States’ immunity from execution.
The Court notes that the requirement under Article 1412quinquies that a State waiver from immunity from execution be ‘express’ is in accordance with the aforementioned Convention and international custom. By contrast, the additional requirement that such waiver must also be ‘specific’ goes beyond what international custom posits inasmuch as this requirement of specificity applies not only to diplomatic property (including embassy bank accounts), consular property, property of special missions, or international organizations (which is permissible), but also to other property of a foreign State more generally. The provision is indeed annulled to the extent that it extends the specificity requirement to the latter. By contrast, the Court upholds the requirement in Article 1412 quinquies that any attachment of the property of a foreign State presupposes prior approval by the juge de saisie.
VANDERSCHUREN, J., "Satisfecit constitutionnel partiel pour l’article 1412quinquies du Code judiciaire", JT 2018, afl. 6737, 560-564 and http://jt.larcier.be/ (6 july 2018).