THE CENTRAL PHASE OF TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE POLICIES (1944–1951)
Belgium experienced transitional justice from September 1944 to 1951, after the country had been occupied by the Germans. Belgium had also experienced the punishment of collaboration after the First World War, when the country lived almost completely under German occupation and was split up politically and administratively on linguistic lines (in the northern part, Flanders, most people spoke Dutch, Wallonia, the southern part, was French-speaking; French was also the high status language throughout the country). Legislation, jurisprudence, judicial doctrines as well as the experience with this first punishment of collaboration have left their mark on transitional justice after 1944. In order to facilitate the comparison with the other countries under review in this book, and to be able to point out what is to be considered as a “judicial innovation”, we will start with transitional justice after the Second World War and then indicate where and to what extent the punishment of collaboration after the First World War has had an impact on the post-1944 transitional justice process and to what extent measures taken for the post-1944 period were judicial innovations.
THE OCCUPATION REGIME
Belgium was invaded by Nazi Germany on 10 May 1940. The entire territory was occupied by German troops, except a small German-speaking part in the East (received as compensation from Germany after 1918), which was annexed to the Reich. Belgium was ruled by a military government (Militarverwaltung) until July 1944, when a civil government (Zivilverwaltung) took over until the Liberation in September 1944. The King preferred to stay in Belgium, officially as a POW (he was the commander-in-chief of the Belgian army), but tried to play a political role, without much success. The government left the country, established itself in London and was considered by the Allies as the legitimate Belgian government. With the invasion, the Belgian parliament delegated powers of the ministers within the occupied territory itself to the highest-ranking civil servants, the secretaries-general. They formed a committee, governed the country and became the political interlocutors of the German authorities.