ROBIN UTRECHT

Advocate-General wipes the floor with English-language commercial court plans

In his speech marking the start of the new judicial year, the Advocate-General at the Court of Cassation André Henkes showed little sympathy the Justice Minister Koen Geens’ (Flemish Christian democrat) plans to set up a Brussels International Business Court (BIBC). Mr Henkes is particularly concerned about how the court will be financed and about its independence.     

The Brussels International Business Court (BIBC) will be an English-language court with professional magistrates that will work as consular judges and legal counsel from home and abroad. The BIBC would rule on international disputes that aren’t the exclusive responsibility of other courts. Its procedure would be not or hardly be subject to the Belgian Penal Code.   

The Advocate-General says that the fact that appeals against the BIBC’s rulings could be lodged with the Court of Cassation means that this could cause issues.

This is because the BIBC’s working language is English and the Court of Cassation’s working languages are the official languages used in Belgium: Dutch (Flanders and Brussels), French (Wallonia and Brussels) and German (9 municipalities in the East of Liège Province). Mr Henkes fears that this would mean that issues could arise related to translation.  

Even more concern is expressed about how the new court would be financed and whether its independence could be guaranteed. The Advocate-General echoes concerns about the BIBC that were already expressed by the High Council for Justice. BIBC does not comply with the norms laid out by the UN and the Council of Europe on the independence of courts.  Mr Henkes also questions whether such a court is actually necessary.

"We are not convinced. What is in existence already provides sufficient opportunities to provide for the needs of the many international institutions and companies that are based in Brussels”, the Advocate-General said.