Vaessen v American Battle Monuments Commission

Date03 décembre 1997
CourtLabour Court (Belgium)
Belgium, Labour Court of Verviers.

(Barth, President)

American Battle Monuments Commission

State immunity State entity Whether endowed with independent legal personality Whether entitled to invoke jurisdictional immunity American Battle Monuments Commission Locally recruited employee Dispute concerning contract of employment Whether Commission entitled to invoke jurisdictional immunity from proceedings before municipal courts United States of America-Belgium Agreement of 27 November 1958 concerning American Military Cemeteries Provision for immunity from civil jurisdiction Whether Agreement may be relied upon against individuals in the absence of its publication

Treaties Effect on third parties Requirement of publication Treaty affecting rights and obligations of third parties Whether treaty can be invoked against third parties in the absence of publication The law of Belgium

Summary: The facts:Vaessen, a Belgian national, was employed from April 1978 as a visitors' guide at the United States military cemetery of Henri-Chapelle. Following a series of warnings for failures in the performance of his duties, he was summarily dismissed in June 1982 for having absented himself from his post without authorization. He sued his employers, the American Battle Monuments Commission, for compensation for unlawful dismissal. The defendants claimed that they were entitled to jurisdictional immunity pursuant to an Agreement of 27 November 1958 between the United States of America and Belgium concerning American military cemeteries.1

Held:The action was admissible but unfounded.

(1) If an international agreement affected the rights or obligations of individuals, its publication was necessary. Consequently an international agreement which had not been published in its entirety could not be relied upon against individuals. In the case at issue, the Agreement relied upon deprived a worker of his right to bring proceedings before the Belgian court. Accordingly, since it had not been demonstrated that the Agreement had been published, it could not be relied upon against the plaintiff.

(2) The defendant was a body with its own legal personality, independent of the Government of the United States, and had so acted in concluding and terminating the contract of employment at issue in this case. Consequently the proceedings had been properly instituted against the defendant.

The following is the text of the judgment of the Court:

In law

The Court has considered the file of the proceedings RG 0368/96, which are in the proper form, and in particular the summons served on 6 September 1992

The attempt at conciliation provided for by Article 734 of the Judicial Code has failed.

The Court has heard the submissions of the parties made at the public hearing on 3 September 1997.

The Court has considered the provisions of the Law of 15 June 1935 on the use of languages in judicial matters as well as the...

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