Sunday, September 02, 2007

The news from Belgium

There has not been so much excitement since those three galloped to bring the good news from Ghent to Aix. (No, as it happens, nobody knows what the news was and why it was good. One of Browning's little jokes, I am afraid.)

First that demo, whose non-progress we have followed. The last news we reported was that Udo Ulfkotte, a German citizen and one of the organizers of the demo, appealed against the mayoral decision not to allow the demonstration to take place. A few days ago Paul Belien reported that the Belgian Council of State rejected the appeal because, "Udo Ulfkotte cannot prove that his interests have been harmed by the mayor's ban".

Well, I suppose he cannot prove that he had been harmed in any physical sense but surely if freedom of speech and assembly is denied people are harmed in quite important psychological ways.

Paul Belien adds a caustic comment, as is his wont:

This verdict may sound nonsensical to non-Belgians, but in Belgium it is not considered harmful to have one’s political freedoms restricted. In Belgium it is also considered quite normal that the lawyer representing Mayor Thielemans before the CoS is Marc Uyttendaele. The latter is one of the most expensive lawyers in the country. He is also the husband of Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian minister of Justice, who is responsible for appointing, promoting and suspending judges.
As it happens, Belgium is not the only corrupt country in Europe but let that pass.

Nothing daunted, Hugo Coveliers, the lawyer of the organizers of the pan-European anti-Islamization demonstration, is taking his appeal to another court.
Mr Coveliers has now decided to bring the case before a civil court. He is going to argue that the “subjective rights” of the organizers have been denied. If the court agrees with that argument there is a possibility that the organizers can claim damages from the Brussels mayor if he does not allow the demonstration to go ahead.
Mr Belien adds some interesting facts about the various personalities involved that should give all those who think our judges should be elected and, therefore, made into political animals, something to think about:
Mr Coveliers, a member of the Belgian Senate, was shocked at the CoS ruling. Freddy Thielemans, the Brussels mayor, is a Socialist. Judge Roger Stevens, the chairman of the three CoS judges who refused to overrule his ban, happens to be the co-author of a book with Johan Vande Lanotte, who until last June was the party leader of the Socialists. Judge Daniël Moons, one of the two other judges who ruled in the case, was appointed to the CoS in 1997 by the same Mr Van de Lanotte, who was Belgium's Vice Prime Minister at the time. The superior of the three judges, the recently appointed CoS president Marie-Rose Bracke, is the sister-in-law of former Socialist minister Luc Vanden Bossche and the aunt of Freya Van den Bossche, the current Belgian Budget Minister, also a Socialist.
And don’t tell me similar things would not happen here. Human nature is human nature, as Miss Marple is apt to point out. What distinguishes Anglospheric culture, mostly, from others is the understanding that institutions have to be put into place to safeguard judicial independnence. (Actually, there are many other distinctions as well but this one will do for the moment.)

It is not clear, at the moment, whether the demonstration will go ahead and, if so,under what conditions. But there are some fascinating comments on the posting.

Meanwhile, the constitutional crisis is trundling on as well, as described by the self-same Paul Belien, complicated, it would appear by the curious attitude to financial probity and, how shall I put it, rather exotic life-style of the now recalled Belgian ambassador to France.

Read the whole piece. Very funny. I particularly like the idea of the Belgian embassy in Paris being known as "la cage aux folles" and, of course, Ambassador Schmidt also having Marc Uyttendaele, husband of Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian Minister of Justice. What a busy chap Maître Uyttendale is, to be sure.

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