ICJ Instructs Belgium to Cancel International Arrest Warrant Against Former Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs

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Monday, April 1, 2002
Tom L.W. Scheirs
On February 14, 2002, the International Court Justice rendered it judgement in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo v. the Kingdom of Belgium. The Court deemed that the international arrest warrant in absentia issued by a Belgian investigating judge on April 11, 2000 against Mr. Abdulaye Yerodia Ndombasi charging him with grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols thereto, and with crimes against humanity, infringed on Yerodia’s diplomatic as Minister of Foreign Affairs of a sovereign state. The assessment by the court of the issue of immunity of incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs contains two parts. The first part is concerned with the question whether an incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs does indeed enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction, while the second part considers the question whether the issue of an international arrest warrant could violate this immunity. The court subsequently had to consider whether the issue of a warrant for the arrest of Yerodia, and its international circulation through Interpol violated his immunity.