BELGA/MAETERLINCK

Belgian state must pay former nationalist Senator 35,000 euro

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Belgian state must make a payment of 35,000 euro to the former Flemish nationalist Senator Kim Geybels. Ms Geybels was elected to the Belgian Senate in 2010. Shortly after her election she was involved in a drugs case in Thailand where she was holidaying with a Flemish nationalist local councillor with whom she was having a relationship. Unbeknown to her the councillors reportedly went in search of drugs.

A taxi-driver is believed to have hidden drugs in the couple's hotel room. When the police discovered the drugs they are said to have demanded a large sum of money in return for covering up the matter. The pair reportedly paid the money. The following day Ms. Geybels called the Belgian Embassy that put them on a flight to Paris. On her return to Belgium Ms Geybels resigned as a Senator, but then withdraw her resignation as she said that it was made under duress.

She claimed that leading figures in the Flemish nationalist party had put pressure on her to resign and as such her resignation was invalid. Kim Geybels said that as the person that was to replace her in the Senate had not yet been sworn in she could withdraw her resignation. However, the Senate was of the opinion that a resignation was irreversible from the moment that the Speaker has received a letter of resignation.  

Kim Geybels didn’t agree and took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. The court has now decided that her rights had been infringed by the Senate’s decision as the Belgian Senate doesn’t have any clear rules on the withdrawal of a resignation by one of its members. Furthermore the Senate has no guarantees to ensures that decisions on this issue aren’t taken arbitrarily.       

The former politician was awarded 5,000 damages and 30,000 euro costs. This is far short of the 400,000 euro she had demanded for, amongst other things, loss of income.  

Speaking after the ruling Kim Geybels said "It could have been more. I didn’t work for months and it is something that potentially could have damaged my career (she is a paramedic).  But I am happy that the case is finally closed and that it has been made clear that there is a great lack of clarity as regards resignation rules for members of parliament. Hopefully something will be done about this now”.