Belgium has to pay €100K in damages for extraditing terrorist to United States

The Belgian state has to pay convicted terrorist Nizar Trabelsi nearly 100,000 euros in damages because the man was extradited to the United States despite a clear ban by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Trabelsi's lawyers confirmed the news reported by several Belgian media outlets. The country also has to ask the US to repatriate Trabelsi to Belgium, under penalty of a daily fine of 10,000 euros.

Nizar Trabelsi was arrested in 2001 for planning an attack on the Kleine Brogel army base in Belgium. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Brussels Court of Appeal in 2004 and served that sentence in full. In October 2013, Belgium extradited him to the United States despite an order from the ECHR in Strasbourg that prohibited the extradition.

In 2014, the ECHR declared that the extradition of Trabelsi violated the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered Belgium to pay €90,000 in damages to Nizar Trabelsi.

In March 2021, the Belgian Court of Cassation also confirmed that Trabelsi's 2013 extradition was limited and that Trabelsi could not be prosecuted in the United States for the offences for which he was convicted in Belgium. In May this year, that court order was reiterated by the Brussels Court of Appeal, coupled with a penalty of €250,000.

On Tuesday, the court ruled in another proceeding in which Trabelsi's lawyers sought to hold the Belgian state liable for how the man has been treated since his extradition to the United States. Trabelsi has been in complete isolation in a maximum security prison for years. According to United Nations reports, Trabelsi suffers from post-traumatic stress, symptoms of psychosis, hallucinations, panic attacks, engages in self-mutilation, and does not receive the necessary medical care.

The court ruled in favour of Trabelsi's lawyers, concluding that the Belgian government had failed to fulfil its obligations to the man. Without the violation of the ECHR extradition ban, Trabelsi would not be in prison in the US and would not be in danger of being convicted there, the court argued. The Brussels appeals court therefore ordered the Belgian state to pay some €100,000 in damages. This amounts to 10,000 euros for every year he spent in a US prison. 

The Belgian state also has to inform all Belgian witnesses called to the US trial that Trabelsi is on trial for acts for which he has already been convicted, and that they would be cooperating in a violation of the principle that no one can be convicted for the same acts twice by giving testimony. In addition, Belgium has to urge the United States to provide Trabelsi with the necessary medical care.

Most importantly, the Belgian state has to send a diplomatic note within 30 days asking the US to bring Trabelsi back to Belgium. If the Belgian government fails to do so, the country has to pay a penalty of 10,000 euros per day, with a maximum of 100,000 euros.



Nizar Trabelsi appearing before a Correctional court in Liège, Belgium, in 2005 © BELGA PHOTO MICHEL KRAKOWSKI

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