The forced placement of mixed-race children in orphanages in the Belgian Congo in the 1950s cannot be described as ” crime against humanity “, ruled a Belgian court, Wednesday, December 8, rejecting their action against the state five Métis women now in their seventies.
The alleged crimes and violations of fundamental rights prosecuted before a civil court in Brussels relate to the period 1948-1961, until the day after the independence, in 1960, of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The five plaintiffs, born of a relationship of a white man with a black woman and at the time aged 2, 3 or 4 years, had been torn from their maternal family to be placed in a religious institution where they say they had been. victims of ill-treatment. These five women, four Belgians and one French, had decided last year to sue the Belgian state, held responsible for these forced placements at the time of colonial power.
A first in Belgian law
The accusation of “Crimes against humanity” for facts dating from the colonial period was a first in Belgian law. Lawyers for the five women denounced a “Generalized system” implemented by the Belgian administration and motivated according to them by racism. “During colonization, the mestizo was considered a threat to the supremacy of the white race, he had to be removed”, had pleaded the lawyer Michèle Hirsch during the trial, in mid-October.
After almost two months’ deliberation, the court ruled on Wednesday that, “Unacceptable as it is today, the policy of placing Métis children in religious institutions for racial reasons was not, between 1948 and 1961, considered by the Commonwealth of States as a crime against humanity and incriminated as such “.
As a result, continues the judgment, according to an extract sent to AFP, the court “Decided that by virtue of the rule according to which no one can be punished for a crime which did not exist (at the time of the alleged offenses), the Belgian State could not today be punished criminally on the count of a crime against humanity for facts which at the time could not be qualified as such a crime ”. The judgment underlines that the criminalization of the count of crimes against humanity only appeared in Belgian law with a law of 1999.
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Métis forcibly placed in the former Belgian Congo: five women dismissed by a court in Brussels