Le Centre de droit international et l’Unité de Recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains de l’Université Libre de Bruxelles se sont associés dans un projet de recherche sur la contribution de la Belgique au droit international, dans le cadre du Pôle d’Attraction Interuniversitaire « Justice et populations, l’expérience belge en perspective internationale, 1795-2015. » Dans le cadre de ce projet, qui court de 2013 à 2017, deux bourses de doctorat sont offertes dans les domaines du droit international et de l’histoire, pour des recherches qui s’inscrivent dans la thématique générale pris en charge par l’ULB dans le partenariat du PAI.
Les mandats des boursiers débuteront le 1er janvier 2013, pour une durée de 4 ans.
Les candidats doivent remplir les conditions d’inscription en doctorat en droit ou en histoire à l’Université Libre de Bruxelles, être motivés pour un travail en équipe interdisciplinaire, ouverts sur l’international et faire preuve de capacités de recherche et de rédaction.
Les candidatures peuvent être envoyés avant le 15 octobre 2012, comprenant, un curriculum vitae ainsi qu’une lettre de motivation et un bref projet de thèse, en français ou en anglais, ciblé et réalisable en 4 ans, tout en s’inscrivant dans le cadre du descriptif du projet ci-joint. Les candidats dont les dossiers sont retenus seront convoqués pour un entretien le 22 novembre 2012. Les fichiers, en format pdf, seront adressés à firstname.lastname@example.org dans un message comportant comme objet : « candidature doctorat PAI ».
Olivier Corten, Centre de Droit international, (email@example.com)
Pieter Lagrou, Unité de Recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chérfia Saddouk, responsable administrative, (email@example.com)
Descriptif du projet :
Justice and populations, the Belgian experience in international perspective, 1795-2015.
(Belspo IAP P7/22)
Centre de Droit International / Unité de Recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains
Université Libre de Bruxelles
The ULB team proposes to take the title of the PAI project to the letter: the Belgian experience in international perspective. Two interrelated, but distinct aspects will be examined.
Firstly, in the area of international law and justice, the Belgian experience is distinctive. The Belgian record in mediation, arbitration, or hosting of international organisations often seems second to that of Switzerland, Norway, Sweden or the Netherlands, other small nations who could longer enjoy the benefit of neutrality in contemporary history. Yet the limits of Belgium’s foreign policy tend to obscure the very strong involvement of Belgian scholars, activists and militants in the campaign for international law as an alternative language in international relations and as a universal route to peace, democracy and human rights. International law was, in the expression of Jay Winter, a « minor utopia » in an age of extreme ideologies and violence, or, as Martti Koskenniemi phrased it, a « gentle civilizer of nations ». The Institut de Droit International, founded in Ghent in 1873, and awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1904, nine years before Henri La Fontaine’s Nobel Prize, stands at the cradle of a longstanding commitment of Belgian intellectuals to international law as a universal language. The German invasion of 1914 severely shook their faith in international morality, but did not altogether shatter it. The campaign over German atrocities in « Poor Little Belgium »; the frustration over the German refusal to hear Belgian indictments at Leipzig; the trials held in absentia during the interwar years; the fierce argument over the legality of the Hague Convention and the occupation regime both in 1914-1918 and 1940-1944 in which the Belgian judiciary stood at the forefront of a peculiar form of resistance and, finally, the trial by Belgium of German war criminals in the late 1940’s all form part of a confrontation of the legal concepts deemed characteristic of the Belgian liberal State with those of its German neighbour. Belgian militants of international law continued their campaign by taking up the legal defence of activists and insurgents in the wars of independence waged in the Belgian, French and British Empires and in authoritarian regimes in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The end of the Cold War opened a new chapter, when the accumulated weight of this tradition culminated in the law on universal jurisdiction adopted in the early nineties, later followed by important precedents in third country jurisdiction, notably of individuals suspected of taking part in the Rwanda genocide and strong commitment to the creation of the International Criminal Court.
A long-term history of this Belgian record of engagement with international law and justice is not about compiling a roll of honour or an exercise in national chest thumping, but it is a project of intellectual history at the crossroads with the history of political ideas, international relations, militancy and the emergence of international law as an academic discipline. This intellectual history should also draw on elements of collective biography. Where can militancy for international justice be located on a social, political, confessional map of Belgian society? How does it tie in with traditional politics? What kind of transnational networks does it build up?
Secondly, the Belgian engagement with international justice is not simply a matter of laudable intentions, utopia’s and intellectual history. It also produced effects, created a record, built up jurisprudence. There are at least two angles under which these « archives » are of a crucial importance to contemporary debates. In the heated controversies on the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court between signatories and non-signatories of the 1998 Rome Treaty, jurisprudence is a central issue. Is the court a creatio ex nihilo, based on the flimsiest of jurisprudential traditions, producing only exceptions, or is it rooted in a longstanding and diversified accumulation of precedents? The legal precedents mobilised in public discourse, but to some extent also in judiciary reference, are indeed limited to the most famous cases – Nuremberg, Eichmann, Barbie, Pinochet. However, according to current estimates, only 2% of the existing jurisprudence in international justice is actually used and referenced, for instance through the various International Law Digests. Thousands more wait to be exhumed and made accessible to lawyers and historians alike. The ultimately random selection of published jurisprudence causes some court decisions to be cited and others to fall into oblivion. For instance the rather obscure Mehden trial before a Brussels court in 1949 was cited in the appeal case of Erdemovic before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia for the way it overruled the argument of superior order, but the Siegburg case in the same years, in which a Belgian court qualified the murder of a Jewish victim as a « crime against humanity » never made it to the columns of the law digests and Pasicrasies. A systematic disclosure of the judicial record of Belgium in the area of international law would considerably enrich the jurisprudential stock on which the ICC can build and thus strengthen its legitimacy. The second angle is properly historical. Not only lawyers, but also historians have built their corpus on a very narrow base of court records. For the history of the Nazi occupation, for instance, court records have been the single most important source of the historiography produced since 1945. Far too many historians have used court files as just a convenient set of documents, ignoring the context of their production, and thus often uncritically reproduced judicial narratives of inculpation or disculpation. The vast majority of trials have never been used at all. Part of the difficulty is access to the source material. For instance, the military justice has been abolished in Belgium in 2003, but its archives have yet to be transferred to the National Archives. The procedures for declassification are unclear and excruciatingly slow. The conservation of this considerable stock of very fragile paper files in inappropriate conditions puts their preservation at risk.
The National Archives of Belgium, partner to this PAI, has the legal mandate and the expertise to preserve and disclose these archives. Because of the strong international relevance of these files, digitilisation and, ultimately, web-based consultation seem the ideal solution. However, discharging tens of thousands of documents on the Internet without an adequate tool to access the material would hardly improve the situation. What is needed therefore is a reflexion on the uses of judiciary files, their potential and their limitations for very diverse users: the documentation branch of the ICC, defence lawyers and legal scholars, historians – that is, those working on legal history, but also those working on state sponsored crime, its perpetrators, victims and all other aspects of history historians and social scientists in general so massively use judicial files for. Differentiated access to the charges, sentences, court proceedings, defense memos, witness accounts, and documents collected by the investigating judges will allow optimal versatility. Such a reflexion – and such a tool – should be designed in close cooperation with the ICC, the ICTY and the ICTR and other actors in the judiciary and archival field who face the same challenges. Ongoing work in our teams on the jurisprudence and archives of the Arusha tribunal can in this context provide precious expertise. The accumulated archives of the CDI could thus also integrate a wider and stable documentary context.