Belgium. According to Countryaah website, national day of Belgium is every July 21. 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.
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.
From the French to the Belgian Revolution
Under the impression of the Bastille storm, Belgium was rebelling against the Austrian dominion. The revolt was led by the conservative and clerical groups, and the Belgian state constituted in 1790 guarded the interests of the Church and the individual provinces.
The Austrians regained control of Belgium very quickly, but the French victories of the subsequent Revolutionary Wars led to a French conquest, and in 1795 the Austrian Netherlands was incorporated with France and divided into nine French departments. Belonging to France lasted until Napoleon in 1815 was finally defeated at Waterloo just outside Brussels.
At the Vienna Congress after the Napoleonic Wars, the victorious superpowers sought to create a barrier to renewed French expansion and prevent France from gaining dominion over the Flanders coast. The solution was to bring Belgium together with the Netherlands into a united kingdom of the Netherlands under the house of Oranien.
There had been opposition in Belgium to the union with France, partly caused by the burdens of war but also by contradictions concerning the position of the church. However, it soon became apparent that the new state structure was also not satisfactory for large Belgian groups. These turned to what was perceived as the Dutch pursuit of domination within the Union. As Belgium was experiencing an economic crisis in the wake of the war, the economic problems were linked to Dutch policy. Another important complaint was the church conditions; within Catholic circles, the influence of the Netherlands and the Protestant royal family was perceived as a threat.
In relation to recent developments, it is interesting that Dutch attempts to make Dutch (Flemish) an official administrative and teaching language encountered stiff resistance not only in the French speakers but also in the Dutch speaking parts of Belgium. This was partly due to the fact that the politically active groups in the Flemish areas had been refreshed during the previous century, and partly because the reaction to Dutch church policy was particularly strong in these deeply Catholic areas.
In 1828, the Belgian opposition succeeded in gathering together, and under the influence of the July revolution in France in 1830, revolt broke out in Belgium. On October 4, 1830, the independent state of Belgium was proclaimed, and Prince Leopold of Saxony-Coburg was elected king under the name of Leopold I. Despite the Netherlands military superiority, Belgium managed to maintain its independence because of the tendency of the great powers to allow any individual power to gain control over the strategically important Belgium. The relationship between Belgium and the Netherlands was first regulated by a treaty in 1839. This also included a joint superpower guarantee for Belgium’s independence and neutrality.