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Belgium

Yearbook 2002

2002 BelgiumBelgium. According to Countryaah website, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in February that an international arrest warrant issued in Belgium for a Congolese minister was invalid. In doing so, the UN appeared to put a stop to a series of well-known war criminal processes initiated in Belgium under a controversial law of 1993. The court considered that diplomatic immunity protects government members from prosecution in foreign nations. The law had caused some inconvenience to the government as it enabled judicial review regardless of where the crime was committed.

2002 Belgium

In June, an appeals court also ruled that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could not be tried in Belgium. Survivors of the massacres of Palestinians in two Lebanese refugee camps in 1982 had tried to prosecute Sharon, who was then Minister of Defense, for war crimes. But the court found that the trial could not be held under Belgian law because the accused was not in the country. However, it was unclear whether Sharon would have immunity even if he were to visit Belgium in the future.

A government crisis threatened in August after riots broke out within the six-party coalition on arms sales to Nepal, but the government passed a distrustful vote of 87 votes to 38. The crisis arose when the Flemish environmental party Agalev opposed the sale of weapons to a country fighting a Maoist guerrilla years. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt felt that the contract could not be breached, but made a number of concessions before the vote. He promised that the gun laws should be reviewed. Health Minister Magda Aelvoet, environmentalist, resigned in protest against the sale.

In September, Belgium became the second country in the world, after the Netherlands, to legalize euthanasia. The law contains strict rules: the patient must repeat the request and suffer from incurable pain. Everyone is also guaranteed the right to painkillers, so that no one should ask to die because he cannot afford treatment. A special commission must decide that the rules are followed. The law caused political divide when critics feared it could be abused.

In August, the preliminary investigation into the murder of suspected pedophile Marc Dutroux, who was arrested in 1996, ended the trial. According to the authorities, a trial should be initiated within a year for kidnapping, rape and child murder. Continued investigations of Dutroux's alleged collusion with high-ranking politicians and representatives of the judiciary were not to wait until after the trial.

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