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 Court of Appeal, Prosecutor v A.I., B.H. et al., 2017 FC 1, 26 February 2019
The case concerned several individuals accused of terrorist offences on account of their alleged involvement in a terrorist group operating in Chechnya. The Court held that Article 6(3)(a) ECHR (the right to a fair trial) does not imply that the indictment must state all the concrete information from which the existence of the personal involvement of the accused can be derived. In casu, the charges were sufficiently clear and unambiguous. The Brussels Court of Appeal held, however, that there were no indications that the defendants were indeed guilty of the crimes charged. Accordingly, there was no need to inquire whether the ‘terrorism exception’ of Article 141bis of the Belgian Criminal Code, relating to acts of armed forces during an armed conflict, was applicable.
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.
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).