[Marxism] In Belgium, the far-right Vlaams Blok is outlawed by the courts

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Thu Nov 11 01:17:17 MST 2004


On Tuesday 9 November, Belgium's supreme court upheld the ruling that the 
far right Flemish Vlaams Blok party does indeed break the country's 
anti-racism laws. The court case was initiated five years ago by the Center 
for Equal Opportunities and the Prevention of Racism, a government agency 
under direct supervision of the Prime Minister's office, and by the Belgian 
Human Rights League.

On 29 June 2001, the Brussels penal court had refused to issue a verdict, 
pleading non-competence. The judge, Mr. Vernimmen, ruled that the case was 
outside the jurisdiction of his court, as in his view the issue concerned a 
political offence.  After this first verdict, the case came before the 
Brussels Court of Appeal, which in February 2003 reaffirmed the previous 
ruling of non-competence.  On 18 November 2003, Belgium's supreme court, the 
Cour de Cassation, consisting of an equal number of Flemings and Walloons, 
overruled the ruling of the Brussels Court of Appeal and ordered the case to 
be brought before the Court of Appeal in Ghent. Judges in Belgium are 
political appointees.

The Ghent court ruled in April 2004 that three non-profit organisations 
which form the backbone of the Vlaams Blok were guilty of discrimination and 
branding foreigners as scapegoats. This ruling meant that, in principle, 
anybody collaborating with the party could from then on be prosecuted for 
racism, including e.g. the postal service delivering party literature, and 
owners of halls who rent them out for party meetings.

A decade ago, Belgium voted for a law restricting the private financing of 
political parties. The law made it illegal for politicians and parties to 
accept donations from companies or donations of more than about US$160 from 
private individuals. Since that time, political parties represented in 
Parliament receive state subsidies through non-profit organisations, which 
they are required to establish for this purpose.

The Vlaams Blok itself finally appealed to the supreme court to take a 
decision on legality of the April ruling, claiming that the Ghent court was 
wrong to brand it racist. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected all 21 
of the far-right party's arguments, and upheld the Ghent ruling. "Now a 
definite line had been drawn where free expression ends and discrimibation 
begins", the Centre's lawyer, Raf Verstraeten, claims. "Free speech is 
guaranteed, but may not be the cause of systematic provocation of hate or 
discrimination."

This decision means in practice that several non-profit groups linked to the 
party will have to pay hefty fines handed out in April, and that the Blok 
will lose state funding worth around a quarter of a million euros. Racist 
parties are not allowed to receive government money in Belgium.

The Vlaams Blok reacted angrily to the news, and said it would just 
re-invent itself under a new name in order to get around the verdict. 
"Today, our party has been killed, not by the electorate but by the judges," 
Vlaams Blok leader Frank Vanhecke said. "We will establish a new party. This 
one Belgium will not be able to bury; it will bury Belgium." He reaffirmed 
his party's desire to see Flanders split from Belgium and become an 
independent state.

Party leader Filip Dewinter referred to the murder of Theo van Gogh, stating 
"In the Netherlands a man has been silenced with bullets, in Belgium a party 
with a million voters is muffed through arrestation by the courts. The 
Belgian method is more perfidious and effective."

The Vlaams Blok says that it will rename itself  "Vlaams Blok+" or "Vlaams 
Belang" (The Flemish Interest). Although it will no longer publicly advocate 
the wholesale expulsion of non-white immigrants, the Vlaams Blok has pledged 
to push on regardless with its campaign against immigration, and to demand 
Flemish independence. On Sunday, Vlaams Blok will hold a refoundation 
congress, vote on new statutes and adopt a new name.

Dewinter expects that the party will become "stronger, better and more 
powerful". He said, "It's a manicure. The lion will sharpen its claws." The 
other parties, which exclude the Vlaams Blok through a "cordon sanitaire", 
reject any co-operation with the far right party. It seems likely that there 
will be more court cases in the future.

Jurriaan (from press reports)





More information about the Marxism mailing list