Related Rule
Belgium
Practice Relating to Rule 158. Prosecution of War Crimes
Belgium’s Law of War Manual (1983) states: “The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, following the Second World War, … only confirmed what had happened after the First World War, i.e., prosecution of foreigners before national tribunals for violations of the law of war.” 
Belgium, Droit Pénal et Disciplinaire Militaire et Droit de la Guerre, Deuxième Partie, Droit de la Guerre, Ecole Royale Militaire, par J. Maes, Chargé de cours, Avocat-général près la Cour Militaire, D/1983/1187/029, 1983, p. 18; see also p. 54.
The manual adds:
The application of the criminal law of war remains in the hands of national communities … Since the Second World War, national tribunals have … judged members of their own armed forces for “war crimes” or other punishable acts which cannot be justified by the situation of war. 
Belgium, Droit Pénal et Disciplinaire Militaire et Droit de la Guerre, Deuxième Partie, Droit de la Guerre, Ecole Royale Militaire, par J. Maes, Chargé de cours, Avocat-général près la Cour Militaire, D/1983/1187/029, 1983, p. 19.
The manual further states:
The States signatory to the [1949 Geneva] Conventions undertook to take a series of measures to promote respect thereof.
These measures can be summarized as follows:
2) criminalization of grave breaches of the [1949] Geneva Conventions …
3) search for, identification of and prosecution by the national courts of the authors of grave breaches, regardless of their nationality, or delivery (extradition) of those authors to the State asking for them, within the limits of the legislation in force. 
Belgium, Droit Pénal et Disciplinaire Militaire et Droit de la Guerre, Deuxième Partie, Droit de la Guerre, Ecole Royale Militaire, par J. Maes, Chargé de cours, Avocat-général près la Cour Militaire, D/1983/1187/029, 1983, p. 55.
Belgium’s Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols (1993), as amended in 1999, provides for the punishment of genocide and crimes against humanity. 
Belgium, Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1993, as amended in 1999, Articles 1(1) and 1(2).
The Law further provides that acts defined as
grave breaches … which cause injury or damage, by act or omission, to persons or objects protected by the [1949 Geneva Conventions] and by Protocols I and II additional to those Conventions … shall … constitute crimes under international law and be punishable in accordance with the provisions of the present Act. 
Belgium, Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1993, as amended in 1999, Article 1(3).
The Law lists such grave breaches, stating, however, that this list is “without prejudice to the criminal provisions applicable to other breaches of the Conventions referred to in the present Act and without prejudice to criminal provisions applicable to breaches committed out of negligence”. 
Belgium, Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1993, as amended in 1999, Article 1(3).
In addition, the Law provides:
Belgian courts shall be competent to deal with breaches provided for in the present Act, irrespective of where such breaches have been committed.
In respect of breaches committed abroad by a Belgian national against a foreigner, no filing of complaint by the foreigner or his family or official notice by the authority of the country in which the breach was committed shall be required. 
Belgium, Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1993, as amended in 1999, Article 7.
In the Violations of IHL in Somalia and Rwanda case in 1997, a Belgian Military Court acquitted two Belgian soldiers accused of having injured and threatened the civilian population whilst performing duties as part of the UNOSOM II peacekeeping operation in Somalia. The Court concluded that the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols were not applicable to the armed conflict in Somalia and that, therefore, the civilian population could not be granted protection on this basis. The Court also held that common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions did not apply to the situation, as the Somali militia did not have an organized military structure, a responsible leadership or exercise authority over a specific part of the territory. Consequently, Belgium’s Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as amended was also inapplicable. The Court further stated that the members of the UNOSOM II mission could not be considered as “combatants” since their primary task was not to fight against any of the factions, nor could they fall into the category of an “occupying force”. 
Belgium, Military Court, Violations of IHL in Somalia and Rwanda case, Judgment, 17 December 1997.
In The Four from Butare case in 2001, a Belgian court found four Rwandan nationals individually responsible and guilty of war crimes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The four Rwandans were arrested under Belgium’s Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as amended. They were charged with violations or grave breaches of provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, as well as with violations of common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Articles 1, 2 and 4 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II. 
Belgium, Cour d’Assises de Bruxelles, The Four from Butare case, Judgment, 7/8 June 2001.
The judgment was confirmed by the Belgian Court of Cassation in 2002. 
Belgium, Court of Cassation, The Four from Butare case, Judgment, 9 January 2002.
An explanatory memorandum submitted to the Belgian Senate in 1991 in the context of the adoption of the Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols stated that the draft law extended to the grave breaches enunciated in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol I, in accordance with Belgium’s obligations. However, it also stated that IHL contained other infringements which it did not qualify as “grave breaches”, but which had to be suppressed nevertheless. The memorandum therefore stated that such offences would be dealt with in a separate law, noting, however, that in the meantime, “the repression of all violations of the laws and customs of war is covered by ‘ordinary’ national penal law” insofar as the violations corresponded to offences punishable under national (penal) law. 
Belgium, Senate, Explanatory Memorandum, Draft Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1990–1991 Session, Doc. 1317–1, 30 April 1991, p. 6.
An early draft of this law was amended in order to include acts committed in the context of non-international conflicts and which corresponded to the grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and of the 1977 Additional Protocol I. The authors of the amendment mentioned that one of the reasons for the inclusion of acts committed in the context of non-international conflicts was the fact that international law did not prohibit such criminalization. The Belgian government supported the amendment and noted that although the proposals “go further than required by the Conventions and Protocols, they remain within the scope of the – admittedly extensive – application of an international instrument ratified by Belgium”. 
Belgium, Senate, Complementary report submitted on behalf of the Commission of Justice, Draft Law concerning the Repression of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, 1991–1992 Extraordinary Session, Doc. 481-5, 22 December 1992, pp. 2 ff.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the situation in Africa, the representative of Belgium stated, with reference to Sudan:
The attacks against civilians, carried out as much by the Governmental forces as by the rebel forces and militias, are continuing, and serious violations of international law are increasing in number. … In order to halt the spiral of violence, the Government of the Sudan must put an end to impunity and must immediately arrest those responsible so that they can answer for their acts. 
Belgium, Statement by the deputy permanent representative of Belgium before the UN Security Council on “The situation in Africa”, 4 April 2007, p. 11.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, the representative of Belgium stated, with reference to Uganda:
… the Security Council reiterated last March the fact that those who seriously violate human rights and international humanitarian law must be brought to justice. My delegation believes that the parties must continue their talks on this issue in order to reach a solution that respects this absolute requirement. 
Belgium, Statement by the deputy permanent representative of Belgium before the UN Security Council on the “Humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa”, 21 May 2007, p. 19.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the representative of Belgium stated:
… combating impunity is one component of protecting civilians in armed conflict. In that connection, there are a number of legal and reconciliation mechanisms in place at the regional, national and international levels – chief among them the International Criminal Court – that can contribute to ensuring that justice is done. Their effective functioning is clearly a deterrent to those who intend to violate the rights of civilians in armed conflicts. 
Belgium, Statement by the permanent representative of Belgium before the UN Security Council on “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”, 22 June 2007, p. 26.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN Security Council on peace and security in Africa, the Prime Minister of Belgium stated, with regard to the use of child soldiers:
… the offenders themselves must be put on trial. Take, for example, [Joseph] Kony, the so-called leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda. He alone has been responsible for the abuse of almost 70,000 child soldiers on the African continent. An international arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. We know where he is, but nobody arrests him … We know what Kony has done; we know what he is doing and we know where he is, and there is not any possible pretext for him not to be arrested. I therefore ask individually, the members of the Security Council to do just that. … Let us arrest him and put him on trial … 
Belgium, Statement by the Prime Minister of Belgium before the UN Security Council on “Peace and security in Africa”, 25 September 2007, p. 12.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the representative of Belgium stated:
It is crucial to recall and to stress … States’ responsibility to end impunity and to bring to justice the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other flagrant violations of international humanitarian law. We have several instruments at our disposal, including the International Criminal Court and mechanisms of transitional justice. 
Belgium, Statement by the permanent representative of Belgium before the UN Security Council on “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”, 20 November 2007, p. 8.