Zaire v D'Hoop

Date09 mars 1995
CourtCivil Tribunal (Belgium)
Belgium, Civil Court of Brussels (Attachments).

(Goldenberg J)

D'Hoop and Another

State immunity Attachment and execution Bank accounts Funds allegedly allocated for diplomatic functions Criteria for determining whether funds immune from attachment Whether courts of forum entitled to question statements made by accredited State concerning allocation of funds

Diplomatic relations Immunity Property Embassy bank account Whether enjoying automatic immunity from execution Funds allegedly allocated for diplomatic functions Burden of proof Whether courts of accrediting State entitled to verify nature of funds deposited by embassy Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961

Diplomatic relations Diplomatic agent Immunity Scope Lease of premises as private residence for diplomat Failure to disclose diplomatic status Whether constituting tacit waiver of immunity The law of Belgium

Summary: The facts:Zaire, acting through its ambassador in Belgium, sought the vacation of attachments granted on bank accounts held in its name at Belgian banks. The attachment had been granted by an examining magistrate in the context of a dispute over payments due under a lease of property for the private residence of a Zairean diplomat in Brussels, who had provided a cheque to guarantee his obligations. In applying for the vacation of the attachments, Zaire invoked immunity from execution and certain provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961.

Held:The application was rejected. Zaire was not entitled to immunity from execution and the Vienna Convention was inapplicable.

(1) If the applicant, represented here by his Embassy, while providing a cheque to guarantee his obligations had nevertheless intended to reserve the right to rely on certain immunities, he should have revealed that he was a diplomat and considered that he was acting in this capacity in signing the contract at issue. His failure to disclose these facts at the time of signature constituted tacit waiver of the immunities at issue.

(2) Immunity from execution was not absolute and it was not sufficient merely to establish that property belonged to a foreign State for it ipso facto to escape all measure of execution. Such immunity only applied to certain assets and it was therefore necessary to examine whether or not the funds subjected to attachment in the hands of a third party had been allocated in whole or in part for sovereign activities in addition to the requirements of the...

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