Onderwerp: Bezoek-historie

Militair Rechtelijk Tijdschrift - Jaargang 116 - 2023 - aflevering 4

Dit onderwerp bevat de volgende rubrieken.

MRT 2023, editie 4


Bijdrage - Afscheidsrede
Titel: 7 September 2023 ‘The Trials and Tribulations of International Criminal Justice’
Auteur: Prof. dr. H.G. van der Wilt

Bijdrage - Beschouwing
Titel: Military aircraft as a third category of aircraft
Auteur: Majoor A.E. Siemensma LL.M.

Bijdrage - Opinie
Titel: You say tomato, I say tomato: u zegt beleidsregel, ik zeg algemeen verbindend voorschrift?
Auteur: Kapitein mr. J.C.A. Aarts

The Trials and Tribulations of International Criminal Justice

Bijdrage – Afscheidsrede

7 September 2023 'The Trials and Tribulations of International Criminal Justice'

Prof. dr. Harmen G. van der Wilt 1

19 years ago, I was appointed as professor of international criminal law, at the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam.

During my career as an academic and teacher, I have been struggling with the question: what is the point of international criminal justice (Damaska)? It would be incorrect and a bit cheeky to answer: I have no idea. Yet, I am still muddling and not yet through (I owe this quote to my dear brother Gertjan van der Wilt). The institutional and political weaknesses of the International Criminal Court are well-known to the experts and informed lay people. It largely operates on the basis of state consent, to wit those states that have ratified the Rome Statute, and it lacks enforcement powers. It implies that the Court is dependent on the cooperation of states in the realm of the arrest and surrender of suspects and evidence gathering. The precariousness of the Court's room for manoeuvre is aggravated by the principle of complementarity, which entails that the Court is only authorized to prosecute and try suspects of international crimes, if a state on whose territory the crime has been committed has been found to be 'unwilling or unable' to do the job properly. I won't assert that this is a flaw in the system, because it has been done on purpose. Domestic jurisdictions are supposed to take the lead in bringing suspects to trial. However, the principle displays a paradox: can we expect states whose judicial system has been disparaged or who have even been accused of 'bad faith' to complacently cooperate with the Court?

Recently, as you all know, there has been a lot of tough talk and determination to bring Putin before the International Criminal Court or to establish a special Tribunal that could prosecute him on charges of aggression. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has even moved to issue warrants for his arrest. Let me immediately show my colours: in the current geo-political situation the endeavor is ill-fated. Of course, I fully agree that the man should account for his criminal actions before a criminal court. However, no state would have the audacity to capture and surrender the Russian president, because it would be a suicide mission, as the action would invite immediate retaliation. Rather, states would invoke tenuous arguments, pointing out that Putin as a head of State enjoys personal immunity which would still be absolute, because Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute. Although this line of reasoning has been rejected by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in the case against former president Al Bashir of Sudan, states may still attempt to revitalize it, especially if they are not a party to the Rome Statute and therefore have no obligation to cooperate with the Court. (I should perhaps add that I fully agree with my friend and colleague, Dr. Vasiliev, that the issuing of an arrest warrant has at least the beneficial effect that Putin is deterred from travelling abroad and is an inmate of his own country).

For the prosecution and trial of Putin to yield success, a complete and radical regime change in Russia is required. Comparisons with the Nuremberg or Tokyo Tribunal are unwarranted, because Russia is not a vanquished nation and still enjoys the support of mighty powers.

The consequence of international criminal justice being subservient to global politics is that the docks of the International Criminal Court are crowded with little people who can easily be dispensed with, adversaries of the regimes in power and military or political bigshots who have fallen in disgrace. Now I do not suggest that it is unfair or unjust that these people are standing trial, because they have often committed pretty nasty crimes. But one cannot deny that it presents a distorted picture if some of the greatest villains – Putin for sure, perhaps Bolsenaro and Xi Jinping – remain off the hook.

These somewhat sobering and gloomy contemplations are connected to the cardinal issue that has bothered me all these – nearly – 20 years. Is international criminal justice right in focusing on the individual guilt and responsibility of – usually secondary and subordinate – perpetrators? Or should it rather address the structural causes that produced such atrocities? And if the latter would be preferable, how could it be accomplished? It has often been observed that Nazi Germany had reached the abyss and had turned into a criminal state. The regime had inversed the moral universe: acts of human care were criminalized and the vilest abuse was profusely praised. For sure, there were heroes and heroines resisting the brutality, but they often had to pay an awful price. A sizeable portion of the population supported the butchers and a silent majority kept aloof, waiting for better times. Unimaginable atrocities were condoned by millions of bystanders, paralyzed by fear or acting out of opportunism. It is not easy for me to estimate how far Russia has 'progressed' on this road to perdition. One gets the impression that most Russians are either brainwashed by the shameless propaganda or numb, apathetic and suffering from depression.

Obviously, it is unfeasible to prosecute and try all persons that in some way contributed - either by acting, or by simply remaining passive, to the mass criminality that has been able to flourish in this toxic environment. Moreover, their individual guilt would be too slight for convicting them.

This very brief sketch serves to introduce the predicament of international criminal justice. It is hampered by two features of so called 'core crimes' that are inter-related, but still distinct: their collective dimension and the pivotal role of political organisations, read the state. By contrast, (international) criminal justice's focus is on individual guilt/responsibility. This is the legacy of the Nuremberg Tribunal that postulated in its most famous dictum that 'International crimes are committed by men, not by abstract entities.'

Within that paradigm, allowance is made for the moral and legal conviction that some are more guilty than others, which prompted the Tribunal and its successors to single out the political architects of the criminal system, like Goering, Milosevic and Charles Taylor.

In theory, another approach, accommodating the criminal responsibility and punishment of collectives, could have been conceivable. This, however, has never found acceptance in (international) criminal law. I will briefly return to this alternative at the end of my lecture.

During my tenure, I have struggled in my publications with this tension between the political/social reality of international criminality and the legal – individualistic - response. There is no need to rehash this 'past performance'. Rather, I would like to pay attention to the work of others with whom I have been working during my professional career. All those years, I had discussions with academic colleagues, who triggered, challenged and inspired me. I had the privilege to teach and tutor scores of often highly perceptive master's students from the University of Amsterdam and foreign universities, some of them maturing into PhD fellows, who completed a dissertation under my supervision.

All in all, I have been involved in some 25 PhD projects and it would be impossible to even cursorily address and discuss them within the limited time allotted to this farewell address. Instead of making hard and inevitably arbitrary choices, I have decided to opt for a different strategy and focus on the running projects that are still to be completed. All these dissertations in the making touch upon the main challenges to international criminal justice: the collective dimension and/or the systemic nature of international crimes. When I was pondering on their content, it struck me that four of these projects concern the scope and limitations of fact-finding by courts, while the other four engage with the question which person should be prosecuted for what crime. The Pavlovian reaction of criminal lawyers is that such selections are made on the basis of gravity (of the crime) and degree of guilt (of the perpetrator). I will therefore classify my summaries of the PhD's around two concepts, to wit 'fact-finding' and 'gravity or seriousness'. What I wish to demonstrate is that all these PhD projects reveal that the collective and systemic nature of international crime involves specific challenges for the execution of these activities which belong to the core business of criminal law systems.


1) In search of historical truth

First, fact-finding. It is a commonplace to hold that criminal courts are involved in the process of fact-finding, id est in uncovering the truth of what actually happened. In many run-of-the-mill cases, this procedure is rather straightforward: someone's house has been invaded by a burglar, people have engaged in a transaction of illicit goods, like drugs or weapons, someone has been kicked on the head, raped or killed. The damage is palpable and visible and there is often clear evidence, indicating who has done what. The court can move on inquiring whether there are justifications, excuses, or mitigating circumstances that warrant the imposition of a milder sentence. Obviously, this is a rather simplified depiction, because the truth-finding process can be much more complex, especially in intricate fraud schemes, insider trading and other 'white collar crimes'. However, for the present purpose this presentation suffices.

The point I wish to make is that in case of international offences, like war crimes and crimes against humanity, the fact-finding process is, usually, much more difficult. Not so much in terms of what has happened, but why it occurred and who is to be held responsible. Political kingpins who created a toxic atmosphere of inter-ethnic hatred and unleashed massive violence are far remote from the crime scene. Their hands are not stained with blood, at least not in the literal sense. The assessment of their criminal responsibility, their 'linkage' to the crimes makes an analysis of the decision-making process or the chain of command indispensable. As you will appreciate, these issues touch upon the collective and systemic dimension of international crimes. It enables me to introduce the first of my PhD-students.

Mrs. Vessela Terzieva, whose work in progress I supervise with my colleague, Dr. Christophe Paulussen of the Asser Institute, is currently investigating whether a right to the truth for victims as a form of reparation exists or is gradually taking shape. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights has been in the vanguard in postulating that such a right indeed has emerged. However, it immediately begs the question: 'what truth?', or to quote the exclamation of Pontius Pilate during probably the most (in)famous criminal investigation in world history: 'what is truth?'. Are courts, often many years after such crimes occurred, capable of unravelling the complex hierarchical machinery of decision making that was ultimately conducive of flagrant violations of fundamental human rights? Mrs. Terzieva is keenly aware of the fact that courts face an uphill struggle in this respect. As a particular telling example, she discusses the difficulties of Latin-American courts in assessing the criminal responsibility for 'enforced disappearances' of the highest political and military echelons in Argentina and Peru. There are several elements that complicate the courts' task. The most obvious one is that, as long as corpses have not been found, the demise of a person cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The first line of defence of any accused is therefore to flatly deny knowledge and involvement. One should not forget that state officials have the power and the means to dispose of dead bodies. Any plea of 'not guilty' is further facilitated by the physical – and also psychological – distance from the crime. Political powerholders can deny their involvement by contending that instructions have been misinterpreted down the line of command or by obfuscating the paper trail. If denials of any involvement in international crimes would fail to convince the courts, the accused will usually invoke a second line of defence by arguing that the state was facing an emergency situation: the incumbent government was under siege. It was a matter of life and death. By lumping together both defences – one challenging the evidence, the other obtaining the nature of a justification or excuse – the composite gets a two-tier structure. The accused will deny direct involvement in and guilt for the most blatant crimes, while asking for understanding in respect of the detention or even killings of adversaries which are routinely disqualified as 'terrorists'.

It is especially the reference to the underlying, socio-political causes of violence and repression that may tempt courts to engage in a broader analysis of the historical contextual background. It raises the issue whether criminal courts are equipped and even allowed to exceed their primary task - to decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused - and provide a wider historical record. The question has been emphatically denied by Hannah Arendt who held that 'even the noblest of ulterior purposes – the making of a record of the Hitler regime which would withstand the test of history - should not be the court's business'.

The second of my PhD-students, Mr. Nicolai von Maltitz, who is on the brink of completing his dissertation that has been supervised by my colleague Prof. Sätzger from Maximilan University in München and myself, has squarely addressed the topic. Von Maltitz explores whether the International Criminal Court is authorized to engage in historical research beyond the inquiry of the criminal responsibility of the accused. Ultimately, he concurs with Arendt, but he makes an important qualification. He takes the fundamental rights of the accused as normative point of reference which he depicts as 'deontic minimum of individual autonomy'. As any historical investigation requires time-investment, prolongs the criminal procedure and hence the pre-trial detention of the accused, such an investigation would be unwarranted, because the exercise would imply that the procedure would be abused as a tool to accomplish the mission. Consistent with his premise of the respect of the deontic minimum, Von Maltitz identifies an exception to the general rule, to wit the situation that the historical inquiry benefits the rights of the accused. When and how this could be the case requires a brief explanation of the proceedings of the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute makes a distinction between a – spatially and temporally delineated – pattern of violence during which war crimes or crimes against humanity are committed on a massive scale (for instance, the current armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine) and a specific prosecution and trial of (an) individual suspect. The former – broader violent context – is called a 'situation', while the latter is labeled as a 'case'. The procedural sequence is as follows. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court first announces his intention to examine and investigate a 'situation' and subsequently decides which particular suspect he wishes to prosecute and bring before the Court. Such decisions are usually subject to the approval of the Pre-Trial Chamber. It is the policy of the International Criminal Court that no person who has been indicted on account of his being implicated in an international crime will be prosecuted for another crime which falls within the purview of the 'situation'. The backdrop of this policy is that any 'election' of a suspect from the bulk of crimes that are committed is by its nature selective and carries a degree of arbitrariness, so it would be unjust and disproportionate to 'bother' that person again. There is an intriguing analogy with the principle that no one is to be prosecuted for the same offence, with the conspicuous difference that we are not dealing with the 'same crime', but with another crime that is committed within a similar context of violence. Von Maltitz proceeds by arguing that the inquiry whether a crime is part and parcel of a situation requires a deeper investigation into the parameters of the broader conflict and the position of the accused therein. The canvassing of the scope, nature and causes of the violence serves to shield the accused from further interference by international criminal law enforcement and would from his perspective be legitimate.

Von Maltitz' main objection against courts addressing broader historical contexts is that it is time-consuming and detracts from the determination of the accused's guilt, affecting his/her fundamental rights. As international crimes are defined by their being embedded in a larger structural context of an armed conflict or an organisational policy, it is indispensable to draw a line between legally relevant contextual elements and redundant historical embellishment. Consequently, any legal judgment renders an impoverished impression of the background and causes of international crimes.

Interestingly, the specific nature of system criminality, revealing structural and protracted injustice, also offers opportunities for expanding fact finding and historical inquiries. This has to do with the fact that the permanence of the crime thwarts the limitations of temporal jurisdiction of courts. It enables me to introduce the work of a third PhD candidate, Mr. Usay Yasr Aysev, who writes a dissertation under the supervision of my colleague Dr. Sergey Vasiliev and myself.

Like all its predecessors, the International Criminal Court has a limited temporal jurisdiction. Article 11 of the Rome Statute stipulates that the Court has jurisdiction only with respect to crimes committed after the entry into force of the Statute. As the Rome Statute entered into force on July 1st, 2002, all the crimes committed prior to that date would in principle be beyond its jurisdictional reach. However, criminal law doctrine offers an antidote against such a conferral of impunity and this 'device' is the topic of Aysev's research. He addresses the doctrinal distinction between instantaneous and continuous crimes and discusses its implications for international criminal justice. So what is the difference between these categories? Theft and murder are perfect examples of instantaneous crimes. They are consummated and completed at the moment that the property is unlawfully seized, or the victim is killed. On the other hand, (unlawful) imprisonment/ detention and enforced disappearances are continuous crimes, as they last in time, until the prisoner is released or the whereabouts of the lost person are recovered. In theory, therefore, the International Criminal Court could consider to initiate criminal proceedings against persons, suspected of being involved in the repression of political adversaries by means of systematic enforced disappearances, because the crime still lasts. Perhaps you will remonstrate that the Court should not squander its scarce resources on digging up crimes that were committed in the previous century, some 40 or 50 years ago. It should rather focus its attention on present atrocities that are committed on a daily basis. And that is a perfectly fair objection. However, Aysev demonstrates that the topic is relevant for present situations as well, where he refers to Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank, which is currently under scrutiny of the International Criminal Court. The transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies features as a war crime in Article 8 of the Rome Statute. Although Israel has vigorously contested this qualification and is not a party to the Rome Statute, Palestine has lodged a declaration, accepting the jurisdiction of the Court, starting from 13 June 2014 onwards. As you will understand, it may be relevant to consider whether the settlement and transfer of Israeli colonists could be characterized as an instantaneous or a continuous crime. In the former case, the Court would only be authorized to assess the population transfers that took place since 2014. One could argue, however, that previous settlements, while starting shortly after the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, persist until this very day and can thus be qualified as a continuous crime. Such an interpretation would allow the Court to widen its scope of investigation into earlier transfers (provided that the settlers are still residing in the West Bank) and address the general practice as a systemic policy of injustice. In other words, Aysev's work is also related to the topic of historical truth finding by (criminal) courts.

I have focused my brief discussion of the practice of fact finding by courts in respect of the assessment of broader, contextual developments as the backdrop and catalyst of international crimes. You may wonder what purposes such deeper inquiries serve, beyond a better understanding of the political, social and psychological mechanisms that are conducive of system criminality. The question takes me to a discussion of the current research of Mr. Petar Finci, who writes a PhD on the (historical) legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), under supervision of my colleague prof. Nanci Adler and myself.

Mindful of the ongoing controversy between historians, political scientists and legal scholars on the question whether (international) criminal courts are capable and authorized to engage in broader history at all, Finci postulates that the ICTY, as the first International Criminal Court to prosecute more than one side to the conflict, was in a unique position to examine the potential of criminal courts to contribute to historical record. He therefore embarks on the challenging quest to inquire to what extent the Tribunal judgements created narratives of causes, courses and consequences of the wars. In doing so, Finci addresses the wider claim of transitional justice scholars that international criminal trials may exceed the mainstream purposes of retribution and prevention, and contribute to processes of transition towards supposedly, more liberal and democratic societies, by establishing objective truths about past injustices. The pertinent question is: is there any evidence that the ICTY has succeeded in accomplishing this goal? Did the didactic purpose yield fruits? In examining this question, Finci follows a twofold methodology. First, he seeks to examine to what extent the historical record, produced by the ICTY, differs from the dominant national historical narratives, as they emerge in history books that are used in the primary and high school curricula of the countries of the former-Yugoslavia. Next, he investigates whether in these books there are references to the work of the ICTY and if so, how these findings are presented. Are the findings and conclusions of the ICTY predominantly contested, or are there also traces of agreement? And if the latter would turn out to be the case, have authors of schoolbooks mainly concurred with the ICTY when it served their own political purposes, or did they incidentally demonstrate sensitivity to and awareness of 'progressive – historical - insight'. That would certainly point at a – modest – didactic legacy of the ICTY!

I should add that Finci, in the course of his research, has grown more skeptical about his initial methodology, because the historical findings of the ICTY have not been unequivocal and judgements have not been 'unisono'. It implies that national(ist) discourses could 'pick and choose' and use precisely those findings of the Tribunal that sustain their own narratives. As an example, Finci contends that Serbian textbooks could find support for presenting the war in Croatia as a heroic self-defence against aggressive Croatian nationalist politics, while Croatian schoolbooks could remonstrate that a Joint Criminal Enterprise had been established in order to annex parts of Croatia to Greater Serbia. Both factions would be able to invoke judgements of the ICTY, although, obviously, different ones. Nonetheless, such findings are still interesting, as they corroborate the practice of Trial Chambers of the ICTY to engage in the production of wider historical narratives. Simultaneously, Finci's conclusions might imply a warning that one should be cautious not to overestimate the authority of historical findings by courts of law. After all, such confidence would be naïve, if several Trial Chambers within one Tribunal reach diametrically opposite conclusions.

During my brief discourse on the search for historical truth by international criminal courts and the concomitant synopsis of the PhD projects on the topic, the notion of system criminality regularly surfaced. That phenomenon is also key for the understanding of the second concept, 'seriousness or gravity', as I will now try to elucidate.


2) On 'seriousness' or 'gravity'

International crimes are defined and stand out by their being very serious. The Preamble to the Rome Statute makes that immediately clear:

'Mindful that during this century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity,

'Recognizing that such grave crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world,

Affirming that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished (…)'

The notion of 'seriousness' features at other places in the Rome Statute as well, remarkably - phrased in a negative way – as a reason not to pursue criminal investigations. Article 17, s. 1, for instance, mentions 'lack of sufficient' gravity of a case as one of the parameters for the Court to consider a case inadmissible. At first blush, this may appear to be paradoxical: how can a crime not be 'sufficiently serious', if they are categorically qualified as such? The explanation for this oxymoron is that a specific incident within a comprehensive attack – like, for instance, the pillaging of a shed, belonging to enemy civilians, which would technically count as a war crime - has insufficient weight to merit investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court.

The interesting question is: what makes war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression 'very serious', apart from our gut feeling that they obviously are? The OTP's Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritization (15 September 2016) sheds light on this important question. The first three parameters – scale, nature and impact – serve to single out specific incidents which qualify for prosecution (a 'case'). They are largely self-evident and do not require our attention.

The last-mentioned factor – manner of commission – is of special interest, because it alludes to an aspect that gives a clue to the essential reprehensibility and gravity of international crimes. In other words, it does not primarily refer to the seriousness of a specific crime, but rather connotes the categorical depravity of international crimes. As one of the ' manners of commission' the OTP refers to 'the extent to which the crimes were systematic or resulted from a plan or organized policy or otherwise resulted from the abuse of power or official capacity'. It is a crucial observation, because the OTP hints at the relevance of the involvement of the state, either as an active perpetrator of international crimes, or as a relatively powerless institution that cannot stay widespread rebellion, amounting to anarchy. The quotation reminds us of one of the contextual elements of crimes against humanity – 'attack against any civilian population' which is defined in Article 7 s. 2 sub a as a 'course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts (…) against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy to commit such attack.' The second disjunctive 'or', informs us that the commission of crimes against humanity is not the prerogative of states, but can also be committed by – powerful – non-state organisations. The question what features such organisations should possess was vividly discussed in the Kenya case and kept the judges divided. These details need not detain us. Suffice to observe that only organisations that can challenge the state's monopolization of power are capable of committing crimes against humanity. The contextual gist of crimes against humanity is that the state is either too strong and repressive or too weak. This – either active or passive - involvement of the state defines an international crime and grants those crimes their detestable and highly serious character. The pivotal question is: why is this the case? Because it adds to all the misery and hardship that victims sustain another – fatal – dimension. People have no authority to resort to for protection and redress. They are wading through quicksand. By actively turning against its own citizens or failing to protect them, the state betrays its main calling. After all, most social-contract theorists agree that the state owes its existence and legitimacy in no small measure to its capacity to shield its citizens against mayhem, which is a precondition for leading a happy and peaceful life. David Luban, referring especially to the active repression of people by the state, depicts crimes against humanity as 'politics gone cancerous'. In my view, the dismal situation of people being deprived of essential protection is characteristic of all international crimes, although the 'guilt' of their own state may be attenuated. In the current war against Russia, Ukraine is fighting for its very survival and it cannot save its civilians nor its military from war crimes, at least not completely. In civil wars the situation is particularly vicious, as the antagonists commit war crimes against each other's affiliates, neither of the parties being capable of safeguarding its own people.

If we accept that the role of the state is the defining element of international crimes, augmenting their gravity when compared to 'common' crimes, one could wonder whether the category of international crimes can or should be expanded with other crimes in which the position of the state is less conspicuous. As many of you may know, a proposal to add 'ecocide' as a fifth crime to the material jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court has been elaborated by an Expert Panel and is vividly discussed in the academic community. This initiative allows me to introduce the first PhD-fellow of the second strand, Mr. Hasan Yucel who precisely addresses the question whether such an extension would be warranted and feasible, in view of the deviating features of ecocide when compared with existing core crimes. In answering this question, Yucel is confronted with two challenging issues. First, existing international criminal justice, including the definitions of international crimes, is strongly orientated on human beings, or anthropocentric. There is only one provision in the Rome Statute which mentions the 'natural environment' as a potential victim of the intentional launching of an attack and qualifies this as a war crime. It begs the question whether animals, plants, rivers or even nature as such could be 'rights-holders' under international criminal law. Or, in other words: should trees have standing? Perhaps it is not so far-fetched, as the acknowledgment of legal personality to an expanding circle of living species - and even beyond that - may be considered as a token of increasing civilisation. Yucel and I have discussed the topic many times, mainly by ZOOM, as he lives in Washington DC. As to the question whether animals and plants have 'rights', and require protection, irrespective of whether humans are simultaneously affected by their demise: we are still on the fence…

The second issue is at the core of the topic I just discussed, to wit the central position of the state in core crimes. It cannot be gainsaid that states and multi-national corporations are heavily responsible for the degradation of the environment. The more pertinent question is whether they are exclusively to bear the brunt, while leaving consumers off the hook. Any serious and rigorous response to the impending climate disaster requires drastic measures that are bound to meet with popular resistance. Most of us are not prepared to sacrifice a life of comfort. Multi-national corporations cannot flourish without a virtuously unlimited reserve of consumers. Such arguments are commonly refuted by those who stress the superior powers of organisation and knowledge of multi-national corporations and states vis-à-vis the individual consumer, but the dialectics of demand and supply in the market economy crowded by vocal and informed customers, are likely to restore the imbalance. All this is partially common knowledge and partially higher economics. Translated to the realm of (international) criminal justice, it raises difficult issues on contributory fault in the context of transactions that cause gross and irreparable harm to both humans and nature. While we may all agree that ecocide easily reaches the threshold of gravity, it is far less clear who the perpetrators are. An extra layer of complexity is added by the fact that ecocide – by its very nature – also involves self-inflicting damage, blurring the borders between perpetrators and victims. Hasan Yucel faces the daunting task to shed some light on these problems.

I have postulated that the involvement of the state – either in an active or passive sense – is a crucial feature of system criminality and international crimes, presenting a potential obstacle against the extension of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court with the crime of ecocide. A more fundamental – purely legal – hurdle, encumbering any effort to bring the state to justice, even for the acknowledged international crimes, is that states incur no criminal responsibility under international law. The idea that they might is not completely far-fetched. The Draft Articles on State Responsibility still made a distinction between 'crimes et delicts', alluding to the possibility that states could commit crimes. However, Article 25 of the Rome Statute makes it crystal clear that 'The Court shall (only) have jurisdiction over natural persons'. Whether such restriction is a legacy of the strongly individual orientation of (international) criminal justice, or rather reflect the deference to state sovereignty is a matter of controversy. International criminal justice is probably hampered by both 'principles'. To be sure, they have suffered erosion in legal development. Many national jurisdictions acknowledge corporate criminal liability, also in respect of international crimes. And both personal and functional immunities for the highest representatives of the State have been abolished before international criminal courts and tribunals, a development that questions the state's sacrosanctity. Still, personal immunities for incumbent heads of state persist in inter-state relations and state immunity is absolute, both before national and international criminal courts.

The state's inviolability in criminal matters is an incentive to explore other avenues to hold the state accountable. Mrs. Kate Clark, who writes a PhD under the supervision of my colleague Liesbeth Zegveld and myself, takes the victims' quest for redress as point of departure and investigates whether they can sue the state in civil proceedings to obtain satisfaction/reparation for war-related damage. In her research question she seeks to figure out, first, 'whether a right to reparation truly exists in international law, for civilians who have suffered damage, injury or death in the context of armed conflict, whether in the context of lawful warfare or as a consequence of war crimes.' Provided that this question is answered in the affirmative, Mrs. Clark turns to her second query, in search of the identification of the person or entity that bears the correlative responsibility to make such reparations. Addressing both issues in tandem, Mrs. Clark has meticulously examined civil courts' decisions in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on reparation claims, often related to tragedies like the fall of Srebrenica and other instances where those countries were involved in UN Operations. In this context, immunity and sovereignty problems are less conspicuous, because the plaintiffs litigate against their own state, which implies that inter-state sensitivities are not at issue. However, other legal hurdles readily surface. For one thing, the victim's right to a legal remedy has come to fruition within the realm of human rights, especially by the efforts of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Armed conflicts are governed by International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Though it is generally acknowledged that human rights cannot be completely suspended during armed conflicts, IHL and International Human Rights Law are separate legal regimes. The former (IHL) probably offers states more leeway to invoke necessity or emergency as a defence to mitigate or deny responsibility and challenge the claims for reparation. Secondly, these national judicial decisions mainly concerned cases of military activities in foreign territory, which prompts the question whether the harmful conduct can be attributed to the state. Such attribution involving responsibility would only be warranted if the state, by means of its military or civil powers, wielded effective control over an area outside its (territorial) jurisdiction. Case law of the European Court of Human Rights sheds light on this issue. One of the most fascinating aspects of Mrs. Clark's research is that she can witness and comment on the evolving dialogue between the European Court and domestic courts, gradually shaping the normative framework in respect of the obligations of states towards victims of armed conflict.

As long as the state itself is 'untouchable' for international criminal justice, the logical alternative is to prosecute and try its officials. There are several possibilities in criminal law doctrine to link people in leadership positions to international crimes. One of the favourites of the International Criminal Court is the concept of perpetration through an organisation, which is a creative extension of 'commission of a crime through another person' (Article 25, s. 3 sub a Rome Statute) and is an invention of the German scholar Claus Roxin (Organisationsherrschaft ). The idea is that a person, sitting behind his desk, would be responsible for heinous crimes, if he concocted a plan of repression and mass murders and would be certain that the plan would be executed by the 'cogs in the machine'. The paradigmatic case was Eichmann who stood model for the 'Ideal type of the Schreibtishmörder'. It is a matter of controversy whether this concept, which emanated from a historically specific context of a tightly organized bureaucracy, could also be applied in case of more loosely structured organisations, like African rebel groups. The doctrine of superior (or command) responsibility offers more solid ground, as it is incorporated in Article 28 of the Rome Statute. Essentially, it provides for responsibility on the basis of a failure to exercise control by a superior over his subordinates who engage in international crimes. Responsibility is predicated on the power of the superior over his subordinates ('authority/effective control'), previous knowledge that his subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes (or at least a 'duty to know') and a subsequent omission to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress the commission of the crimes. Embedded in the realm of military command, the doctrine has been expanded - with the necessary modifications - to sustain the responsibility of civilian superiors. The concept, while frequently applied by international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court, suffers from an internal contradiction. After all, failure to exercise control will often imply loss of such control, which is a prerequisite for holding the superior responsible in the first place. This structural weakness has been depicted as the control paradox. This finding has inspired Ms. Anna Lena Hörzer, whose PhD research I supervise with my colleague Erika de Wet from Graz University, to embark on a broader investigation into preventive responsibilities in international law. Following other scholars, she attempts to forge a link between state accountability and individual (criminal) responsibility. Ms. Hörzer identifies a number of common features that sustain the responsibility to prevent in all these regimes. A crucial element is that war is a very dangerous enterprise, which imposes a duty of due diligence on those who engage in it. A hierarchic system of power relations, enabling the exercise of effective control, serves the compliance with the obligation to reduce war's most harmful consequences. War crimes imply that the danger has materialized and yield prima facie evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of the person or entity in charge, provided there was circumstantial evidence of the (risk of their) occurrence. Rather than investigating organisational structures in the abstract, Ms. Hörzer aims to take actual cases of wrongdoing in consideration, in search of elements that underpin the responsibility of states and political/military leaders, falling short of their due diligence obligations. By this deductive process, she hopes to find some clues to solve the control paradox.

We are now approaching the end of my farewell address, which leaves me to introduce my final PhD candidate, Mr. Jonathan Kwik, who writes his dissertation under the joint supervision of my colleagues Tom Engers, Terry Gill and myself. I must admit that to fit his research in the matrix of my discourse was a challenge, causing some headaches. However, I think that I found a solution for this quandary. Kwik addresses the topical subject of the application of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in war fare. The focus is on AI-enabled capabilities and within this category Kwik devotes his attention to AI's with the function Use of Force, or – in his own words – 'those AI's that replace one or more tasks in the critical decision loop that leads to the use of force.' He acknowledges that such use may be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, AI's may compensate for human frailty, like fatigue or bias. In that case, the application will for instance improve compliance with the principle of distinction, stipulating that only military objectives and combatants – and not non-combatants, such as civilians – are to be attacked by deadly force. On the other hand, however, AI's inherent feature of 'opaqueness' – id est the unintelligibility of the decision-making process within the system – and deferred decision-making inevitably increase the distance between the human, deploying the system, and the decision. All is well, if the system simply obeys the instructions of its master, but what if the system mistakenly takes an innocent shepherd for an enemy combatant, because of the likeness of his garment to the adversary's uniform? Could the human deployer claim lack of responsibility by pointing at the system's fault? A complicating factor is that in the example we still assume good faith on the part of the military personnel applying the device. But the use of AI may also enable the deployer to conceal the commission of a war crime, if he puts the blame on the system going awry. The doctrine of superior responsibility might serve as an adequate antidote to counter such attempts to pass the buck on subordinate executioners. However, the analogy is partially flawed, because the doctrine of superior responsibility is predicated on subordinates being of flesh and blood. Apart from AI obviously lacking that quality, it has the dismal consequence that the system itself cannot be punished which potentially creates a gap of responsibility. 'Indirect perpetration by means of another person' who serves as a tool in the hands of the perpetrator appears to be a more appropriate fit, the human 'puppet' being replaced by a technical device. The problem here is that the AI obviously does not slavishly follow the directions of the deployer, but appears to display a 'will of its own'. The transplantation of modes of liability that are geared to human interaction to the use of AI is a difficult puzzle that mirrors the broader challenge of applying IHL to technical innovations. With his mercurial mind, Kwik familiarizes himself with criminal law concepts, like mens rea and actus reus, while showing remarkable patience in explaining the basics of AI to lay people like myself.

After having offered a synopsis of the work of the eight PhD-fellows that are currently under my supervision, I would like to share some final reflections. What is an international crime? What are the causes of those crimes and who is to be held (most) responsible for them? And what can international criminal justice do to redress those crimes? These are the questions that have preoccupied me during my tenure. As I have tried to explain, the answers are inter-related. International crimes stand out for their gravity. And they are precisely so serious, because of the pivotal role of the state, either in an active capacity, or by proving inept to perform its task. In turn, the preponderant position of states reduces the room for manoeuvre and efficacity of the International Criminal Court and international criminal tribunals. We are condemned to live in a society of states. The system is far from perfect, but I lack the imagination and intelligence to conceive of an alternative. The state is equipped with two fundamental weapons – the sword and the shield – to reign in human passions and excesses. When things go awry – the state abuses the sword against its own people or other civilians; the state is too weak to carry the protective shield – the abyss of international crimes is opened. The International Criminal Court is not allowed nor capable to prosecute and try states, largely because it is operating within the state system and dependents on it. Instead, it should focus its attention on the prosecution and trial of those in leadership positions, because they created the context in which international crimes can thrive. From a moral – and even from a legal - point of view, that is relatively easy to defend. Power-politics present the greatest impediment. Here the sovereignty reflex enters by the back door, despite all earnest efforts to remove the legal obstacles, like immunity. Yet, the International Criminal Court and the state community is to persevere in bringing Putin and Assad to justice, although that may take some time. Collective responsibility is in my view not a proper alternative, because it has no place in criminal law. I obviously acknowledge the collective nature of international crimes and admit the tension between law and reality. However, individual criminal responsibility owes its existence to the repulsion against punishing innocents, which is exactly what will happen in the case of collective (criminal) responsibility. For the same reason, the International Criminal Court should steer clear from addressing structural injustice and remain focused on the international crimes in the strict sense. We may all be bewildered by the ever-increasing gap between the perversely rich and the appallingly poor and recognize that this gap may be one of the root causes of climate heating, widespread environmental degradation and even – more indirectly - international crimes in the strict sense. However, such injustice cannot be transposed into concrete, unlawful acts, which is a requirement of the principle of legal certainty. Moreover, the dilution of responsibility into countless and infinitely small causal contributions leaves no other option than to resort to collective responsibility ad absurdum: where all are responsible, no one is. Those who are in favour of the International Criminal Court expanding its jurisdiction over structural injustice have a quaint idea how criminal law works.

Over nearly 25 years – I started my career at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) as an associate professor, before becoming full professor – the Faculty gave me free reign in pondering on these issues. It has not always been a stroll in the park, of course. Dean André Nollkaemper once observed, with his characteristic sense of understatement: 'Harmen, you are good in research and lecturing, but management is probably not your strongest quality.' To be quite honest: I had already reached a similar conclusion based on previous experience. The call of duty prompted me to serve twice as (interim) head of the section. I realized then that this was not 'my cup of tea.'

However, all in all, the balance definitely tips favourably. I got acquainted with scores of nice, intelligent colleagues, some of them rather funny characters. UvA was - and to a certain extent still is – a safe haven for mavericks. We discussed in small groups arcane texts of Habermas, Derrida and Honnet, beyond the regular curriculum, out of sheer curiosity. The Faculty offered me the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia and Russia – during the short-lived aftermath of Glasnost and Perestroika - where I participated in lecturing courses on international criminal law for judges and prosecutors, or participated in the establishment of inter-university cooperation. My colleague, prof. Goran Sluiter, and I became connected with professors George Fletcher and Jens Ohlin from Columbia Law School and the four of us stood at the cradle of the Joint Master in international criminal law of the UvA and an ivy league university. And I had a modest part in a number of high-profile cases, like the Demjanjuk saga, the Julio Poch-case and the tragedy of MH17, mostly as a commentator.

I will refrain from mentioning people to whom I owe special gratitude. I would not know where to start, or where to end and I most certainly will forget some. It has been an honour and a pleasure.

Military aircraft as a third category of aircraft

Bijdrage – Beschouwing

Military aircraft as a third category of aircraft

Major A.E. Siemensma LL.M. 1


1. Introduction

Should military aircraft be introduced as a third category of aircraft? To answer the main research question, to determine if military aircraft should constitute a third category of aircraft besides the already existing categories of civil aircraft and State aircraft, this paper will shortly delve into the history of aircraft in the introductory section. In the second section it will dissect the different definitions and interpretations regarding civil aircraft and military aircraft to answer the question what the distinction is between both categories of aircraft and why this distinction is made. The third section will deal with the question whether or what are the differences and similarities between State aircraft and military aircraft. This paper will conclude with an answer to the main research question in the fourth and final section.

During both world wars military aircraft were being used increasingly. For example, Germany started to use zeppelins to observe and conduct air raids on British and French cities.2 With the rise of (the use of) military aircraft during both world wars, there also arose a need for 'strict control' of aircraft in general, during the same period in time civil aviation proved its usefulness and necessity.3 An aircraft has been defined by the Convention Relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation of 1919, also known as the Paris Convention (hereafter: the PC19), which 'included aircraft, airships, gliders, free balloons, barrage balloons and helicopters.4 The Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention (hereafter: the CC44) reused this definition and amended it in 1967 to '[t]out appareil qui peut se soutenir dans l'atmosphère grâce à des réactions de l'air autres que les réactions de l'air sur la surface de la terre', to exclude hovercraft.5 Article 3 of the CC44 then makes a distinction between civil and State aircraft for the purposes of delineating the scope of application of the convention, which includes civil aircraft and excludes State aircraft. The concept of 'State aircraft' is, however, not further defined in international law, which creates problems for a specific category of State aircraft, namely aircraft used in 'military services' or 'military aircraft'.6 The Legal Committee of the International Civil Aviation Organization (hereafter: the Legal Committee) asserts that

'[t]he definition of Civil/State aircrafts or Civil/State flight is of basic importance not only within the Chicago system, but also may have some relevance in the context of the Tokyo / Hague / Montreal / Beijing system of Aviation criminal law (taking apart the conventions of private Air Law), in confrontation with State Aviation regime subject to national regulations'.7

At the time of drafting the CC44 it was believed that there was a clear enough distinction between civil and State aircraft, that with the exercise of sovereignty there was no need for further regulation and that State aircraft had hardly anything to do with international navigation.8 One of the problems, as acknowledged by the Legal Committee, for the category of military aircraft is

'the proper qualification of aircraft used for unusual purposes and in particular […] when an otherwise civil aircraft with civil crew is used for military purposes; when an aircraft is chartered, either in whole or in part, to carry military […] personnel and/or cargo, is used in part for carriage of persons or cargo for remuneration; and when an aircraft which could otherwise be considered a State aircraft (possibly with a military crew) is used to carry passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration'.9

In addition to the lack of definition, several differences exist between State aircraft and military aircraft, with some of those differences being, for example, both aircraft respectively having to register in different registers and another being that only military aircraft are allowed to 'exercise belligerent rights, especially that of conducting attacks against lawful targets'.10 Besides a missing definition and the differences between both types of aircraft, with the drafting of the CC44 it thus had been thought State aircraft, and more specifically military aircraft, would hardly partake in international navigation with the opposite turning out to be true.11 That thought was the reasoning for not including State aircraft in the scope of the CC44, which does not reflect the current State of the international airspace.

The distinction between civil, State and military aircraft, and further study thereof, is specifically relevant for the armed forces of a State and the respective national civil and military aviation authorities. Due to an ever-growing and increasing international need within the armed forces to keep up with the required operational readiness and thus having to meet the necessary training requirements a trend arises in the form of 'contract air'.12 Contract air entails enlisting the use of a commercial air carrier, in principle a civil registered aircraft, for an air carrier operation, for example, hiring an air carrier to transport goods or passengers for a customer. Another, more relevant example, is having a civil air carrier perform a task that a government is unable to perform, and thereby switching the label of the aircraft from civil aircraft to State aircraft. This trend poses a problem if, for example, a non-European Union (hereafter: the EU) civil experimental registered aircraft is being used for military means within an EU State, and thus in the context of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), where the local Civil Aviation Authority is authorized to perform oversight for all civil, and including State, aircraft, except for military registered aircraft. Military registered aircraft fall within the oversight scope of the Military Aviation Authority, which – in principle – does not have the authority to oversee civil registered aircraft or non-military State aircraft. However, the use of a contract air commercial aircraft for military means, thus qualifying as civil registered State aircraft, creates a problem with regard to determining the authorized and responsible Aviation Authority. The use of contract air thus muddles the air domain and the corresponding legislation, since the aircraft that are used for contract air are always civil registered aircraft used for military means. A factual black hole for these civil aircraft to get lost in the tangle of civil and military legislation proves another reason to make a clear distinction between the different categories of aircraft.


2. Current situation regarding distinction between aircraft

2.1 In general

The general and current definition of an aircraft, is that of the previously introduced CC44, an 'aircraft is any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than the reactions of the air against the earth's surface'.13 With that definition the International Civil Aviation Organization (hereafter: the ICAO) determined a broad scope of air faring vehicles, that is still growing and blooming with all ongoing technical developments. A distinction has always been made between public and private aircraft, which is used interchangeably with the distinction between civil and State aircraft.14 As mentioned, the successive world wars gave rise to a need for regulation. The PC19 was the first international aviation law treaty addressing that distinction in Article 30, stating that

The following shall be deemed to be State aircraft:

(a) Military aircraft.

(b) Aircraft exclusively employed in State service, such as Posts, Customs, Police.

Every other aircraft shall be deemed to be private aircraft.

All State aircraft other than military, customs and police aircraft shall be treated as private aircraft and as such shall be subject to all the provisions of the present Convention.

Article 30 thus provided that State aircraft are military aircraft and all 'aircraft exclusively employed in State service', with all other aircraft qualifying as private aircraft and being treated accordingly. Article 31 of the PC19 added that '[e]very aircraft commanded by a person in military service detailed for the purpose shall be deemed to be a military aircraft', and with that formulation paving the way to the 'purpose-based approach' or as part of the third approach as proposed by Hornik, covered hereafter. The PC19 left the position of the categories of aircraft mentioned in article 30 unclear, which called for – unrealized – clarification.15 The expiration date of the PC19 did not surpass World War II, with therefore the CC44 making its appearance before the end of that war. The CC44 provided in article 3, that

  1. This Convention shall be applicable only to civil aircraft, and shall not be applicable to State aircraft.

  2. Aircraft used in military, customs and police services shall be deemed to be State aircraft.

  3. No State aircraft of a contracting State shall fly over the territory of another State or land thereon without authorization by special agreement or otherwise, and in accordance with the terms thereof.

  4. The contracting States undertake, when issuing regulations for their State aircraft, that they will have due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft.

As both the PC19 and the CC44 do not offer definitions of either civil or State aircraft, Hornik proposes – among others – to look at different approaches to determine the category of aircraft and identifies three approaches; the ownership of the aircraft, the functional approach and the third being a combination of the first two approaches.16 The first approach is quite straightforward, simply looking at the ownership of the aircraft, with an aircraft either classifying as private or public aircraft. The second approach can also be dubbed the purpose-based approach. It looks at 'the purpose of their utilization, that is, whether they have a 'civil' or a 'State' use'.17 The classification of the aircraft can thus change through usage or, for example, due to who is in command of the aircraft, in line with Article 31 of the PC19. This approach does provide some uncertainty towards third parties with regards to the legal status, either public or private, being open to change and thus giving room for confusion. Hornik campaigns for a third approach being compiled of the following aspects:

  1. the basic distinction between civil and State aircraft lies in the ownership;

  2. State aircraft involved in certain (commercial) activities inherent to the private sector are treated as civil aircraft;

  3. these certain (commercial) activities are defined as those activities in the performance of which the State does not exercise its sovereign powers;

  4. aircraft concerned have to perform these certain activities on an exclusive basis.

Although several attempts have been made to easily classify an aircraft as either civil or State aircraft, the current view, in line with the approaches as introduced by Hornik, appears to determine the category of aircraft, through assessing the aircraft with a combination of looking at the ownership, the performed activities and an (non-) exclusive basis. Even though there was a call for clarification, the CC44 is more of a facelift of the PC19 than the called for clarification or modernization.18 Article 3 gives the scope of application of the CC44 and also provides for an opening for the 'purpose-based approach' or as part of the third approach. Hereafter this paper will look into the characteristics of civil, State and specifically military aircraft.


2.2 Civil aircraft

Civil aviation has to adhere to the relevant international treaties applicable, to the Standards and Recommended Practices of the ICAO, to a code of commercial conduct and to a predetermined flight path, whereas State aircraft can sail along on the sovereignty of a State.19

A general definition of civil aircraft is more easily given than one for State aircraft, videlicet for example, 'an aircraft, excluding government and military aircraft, used for the carriage of passengers, baggage, cargo and mail'.20 De Oliveira, together with – amongst others – Abeyratne, dissects three categories of civil aviation, which are commercial air transport, private flights and a 'wide spectrum of specialized services'.21 Another category of civil aircraft of quite some importance, is that of contracted aircraft. One example of contract aircraft is the United States Civil Reserve Air Fleet (hereafter: the US CRAF), where the US CRAF supplements the military airlift capability of the US Department of Defense 'during national emergencies and times of war.'22

There is not much disagreement on what aircraft qualify as civil aircraft, together with the three categories it seems easy enough to classify an aircraft as a civil aircraft based upon the activities undertaken by that aircraft.


2.3 State aircraft

Predating the PC19 was the International Air Navigation Conference in 1910, also known as the Paris Conference, which provided a definition of a public aircraft, 'as an aircraft that is employed in the service of a contracting State, and placed under the orders of a duly commissioned official of that particular State'.23 With the PC19 laying down the basis for all air law, it gives the following description of State aircraft in Article 30, videlicet that State aircraft encompass 'military aircraft' and 'aircraft exclusively employed in State service, such as Posts, Customs, Police' and all other aircraft 'shall be deemed to be private aircraft'. It is, however, understood, as also mentioned through the phrase 'exclusively employed in State service' in Article 30 of the PC19, that aircraft are meant that are 'owned or used by a State for exclusively non-commercial purposes'.24 Just as with the CC44, the scope of application of the PC19 was limited to private aircraft. The thought behind this limited scope was that State aircraft are 'believed […] to be proxies of [the State's] sovereignty or a State's tangible sovereignty and as such, should not be obligated to follow the same rules that private aircraft are obligated to follow'.25 However, as PC19 determines in Article 5 all aircraft are subject to obtain 'special and temporary authorization' and thus – although exempt from its scope – ensures respect for the sovereignty of each State.

With the arrival of the CC44 State aircraft are again labeled, in Article 3(b), as '[a]ircraft used in military, customs and police services shall be deemed to be State aircraft'. However, it is agreed that the description in the CC44 is not exhaustive and offers room for other types of State aircraft.26 For example, Mendes de Leon offers several other types of possible State aircraft; the coast guard, search and rescue, emergency assistance, humanitarian flights and the carriage of heads of States and official personalities in special aircraft.27 Apart from a few examples of types of State aircraft given, there are currently no definitions or requirements given in international law.28 To resolve the quest for a definition, several authors vote for implementing the – earlier mentioned – purpose-based approach, versus trying to achieve a definition for either civil and State aircraft, or for implementing the third approach, the cocktail of the first and second approach, as campaigned for by Hornik and in line with the possibilities mentioned by the Legal Committee.29 An example to illustrate the need for (a mixture of) the purpose-based approach, is the earlier mentioned example of US CRAF.

Although State aircraft are, in contrast to civil aircraft, not subject to the treaties applicable to civil aircraft, nor to the Standards and Recommended Practices of the ICAO, nor to a code of commercial conduct or a predetermined flight path, States shall, as laid down in Article 3(d) of the CC44, 'when issuing regulations for their State aircraft, […] have due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft'. This follows, aside from the due regard obligation in Article 3(d), from Article 44(a) and from additional ICAO documentation, in which ICAO mentions that States should have 'due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft' and be

'[…] fully informed, and conversant with, the following in respect of the area of activity

a) the type(s) of civil aircraft operations;

b) the ATS airspace organization and responsible ATS unit(s);

c) ATS routes and their dimensions; and

d) relevant regulations and special rules, including airspace restrictions'.30

Whereas civil aircraft can be easily defined with a quite simple phrase with three categories of activities, to fit all shades of State aircraft into one sentence proves more of a problem. Again, suggested approaches are to use either the purpose-based approach or the 'cocktail-approach' instead of trying to define State aircraft. To summarize, that State aircraft seem to be exclusively used to perform non-commercial activities in the service of a State.


2.3.1 Military

'Military aviation […] can be identified as the use of aircraft and other flying machines for the purposes of conducting or enabling warfare, which could include the carriage of military personnel and cargo used in military activities […]. Usually these aircraft include bombers, fighters, fighter bombers and reconnaissance and unmanned attack aircraft such as drones'.31

With Abeyratne focusing on the more practical aspects of military aviation, Gill States that military aircraft are those aircraft 'operated under the command of members of the armed forces and marked as such'.32 More specifically, Gill offers that 'military aircraft are those operated by the armed forces of a State; bearing the markings of that State; commanded by a member of the armed forces; and controlled or manned by a crew subject to regular armed forces discipline'.33 In addition, military aircraft are registered in a military registry of the State of nationality of the aircraft. Although these statements are correct for purely 'military aircraft', when, in the example of the US CRAF, civil aircraft are used - through a contract air construction – as 'aircraft used in military services', one encounters the problem of contracted civil aircraft providing military services, not being under command of members of the armed forces and with no military markings. Hornik offers here that military services should be understood as either 'an activity directly subordinated to a respective authority', with a 'certain degree of discipline' or as 'certain activities […] performed for specific purposes [with] the direct subordination and discipline […] usually lacking and the relationship between the aircraft operator and the State is based on a contract, for instance, a charter contract'.34 These specific characteristics, i.e. operated by and under command of the armed forces, registered in a military registry, make that the placement of the military aircraft category within the current category of State aircraft does not align with the undefined category of State aircraft.

Although the aspects of 'aircraft used in military services' seem somewhat less clear than the aspects of military aircraft, with detaching the category of military aircraft from the State aircraft category these characteristics can be judged within a clearly framed military scope and thus assure a clear scope for each respective aviation authority. To leave 'military aircraft' and 'aircraft used in military services' within the State aircraft category only ensures the existence of the continuing grey area.


3. Military aircraft as/or State aircraft?

This chapter briefly dives into the question what distinctions and/or similarities exist between State and military aircraft. As determined in the previous section, State aircraft are aircraft that exclusively perform non-commercial activities in the service of a State. Military aircraft are characterized partly through command, markings, crew and registration and partly through 'aircraft used in military services'. Hereafter the differences and similarities between both aircraft are shortly touched upon and will be determined if a distinction should be made between both aircraft versus retaining the status quo.

One of the aspects differentiating military aircraft from other State aircraft is the fact that they 'more than any other kind of aircraft including customs and police aircraft, [personify] the public or sovereign power of a State', which follows the train of thoughts originating from the Paris Conference. However, that train got derailed by the PC19 and CC44, which determined that all aircraft should request prior permission to enter national airspace of another State and, thus, a difference turns into a similarity.

Another aspect differentiating military aircraft from other State aircraft is the fact that military aircraft are lawful targets 'when there are reasons to believe that the intruder has hostile intentions' and during times of armed conflict, whereas other State aircraft 'normally may not be attacked, although warning shots may be fired if these aircraft do not comply with reasonable orders'.35 This aspect does differentiate between military and State aircraft.

With regards to the registration of an aircraft, a clear difference exists. Military aircraft are registered in the national military register with – usually – the respective national military aviation authority and not in the national civil register of that State. This aspect refers back to the sovereignty aspect, since States are not obligated to publish their military register and registered military aircraft. Other State aircraft are registered in the national civil aviation register, which is public in most instances.36

Currently, military aircraft are still classified as part of the category of State aircraft, however they differ in various ways. Videlicet they have more clear characterizations compared to State aircraft, their status during situations with possible hostile intentions and armed conflict as a lawful target, and with regards to the registrations of the aircraft. Although the aspect of personification of sovereignty appeared to be a similarity instead of a difference, there remains a need to pull military aircraft from the State aircraft category. Both civil and military aviation authorities struggle with determining the scope for 'aircraft used for military services', thus as part of contract air, since these aircraft are registered in a civil register and thus fall within the scope of a civil aviation authority. However, when such aircraft are occupied with 'military services' a civil aviation authority often does not have the required knowledge to perform oversight over such operations performed by a civil aircraft and will usually look towards the military aviation authority. A military aviation authority does often not have the required knowledge of civil aircraft to perform oversight over civil aircraft nor is it equipped with sufficient personnel to provide such 'extra' oversight.


4. Conclusion

Due to the assumed clarity during the adoption of the CC44 the distinction between civil and State aircraft was not further elaborated on, which turned cloudy in the current times. The Legal Committee acknowledged the importance of definitions for both civil and State aircraft and in addition acknowledged the problem with regards to the status of military aircraft, since

'the proper qualification of aircraft used for unusual purposes and in particular […] when an otherwise civil aircraft with civil crew is used for military purposes; when an aircraft is chartered, either in whole or in part, to carry military […] personnel and/or cargo, is used in part for carriage of persons or cargo for remuneration; and when an aircraft which could otherwise be considered a State aircraft (possibly with a military crew) is used to carry passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration'.37

This paper then asked if it would be wise to make a distinction between State aircraft and military aircraft, as main research question, and with two sub questions aimed to answer that main research question. The first sub question was what distinction was made between aircraft and why was this distinction made. A distinction is made between civil and State aircraft, with an apparent lack of definition for State aircraft. Military aircraft are partially easy to define, however, the aspect of 'aircraft in military services' adds another grey area. A call thus echoes throughout the paper not for a definition, but to adopt either a purpose-based approach or a mixture of looking at the ownership, the performed activities and an (non-) exclusive basis. An additional call echoes for pulling military aircraft outside of the State aircraft category to end the continuing grey area within that category and pull these aircraft within the military scope. This gives additional clarity regarding the scope of aviation authorities, pulling 'aircraft used for military services' within their scope of authority.

Section 3 tried answering the second sub-question with regards to the differences and similarities between State and military aircraft. At the moment military aircraft are still classified as State aircraft, however they differ vastly from State aircraft due to their characterizations, their status during situations with possible hostile intentions and during armed conflict, and with regards to the registration of aircraft.

Following through to the main research question, this paper wants to make the following proposition. That is to make a distinction between State aircraft and military aircraft, and thus pull military aircraft from the category of State aircraft. This paper would argue to pursue that proposed distinction. State aircraft are not and cannot be clearly defined, whereas military aircraft and 'aircraft used in military services' can be pinpointed more exactly due to their characteristics, their status as lawful targets and means of registration. With regards to legislation and regulation, not much would change since the main international treaties do not apply to military aircraft and a lot of countries already have separate legislation and regulation for military aircraft due to their special nature. One point of change might lie within those States who have framed the scope of their respective aviation authorities, the scope of the military aviation authority needs broadening when the distinction would be implemented in national legislation and regulation.

Even though this would not lead to much change in the national legislation and regulation, this change would provide the much-needed clarity for civil and military aviation authorities. Struggling with the grey area of, on the one side, State aircraft, and, on the other side, the civil aircraft used for contract air for military services, this would provide for a clear scope for each respective aviation authority.

You say tomato, I say tomato: u zegt beleidsregel, ik zeg algemeen verbindend voorschrift?

Bijdrage - Opinie

You say tomato, I say tomato: u zegt beleidsregel, ik zeg algemeen verbindend voorschrift?

Is de Voorlopige voorziening uitvoeringsregeling AMAR een algemeen verbindend voorschrift of een beleidsregel en is dat verschil van belang?

Kapitein mr. J.C.A. Aarts1


Al enige tijd geleden, op 27 januari 2022, heeft de Centrale Raad van Beroep (Centrale Raad) een uitspraak gedaan over een zaak die was aangespannen door een gewezen cadet van de Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMar).2 De uitspraak deed nogal wat stof opwaaien bij Defensie en (recent) gewezen cadetten.3 Enerzijds omdat Defensie haar bevorderingspraktijk moest aanpassen en anderzijds omdat er jarenlang uitvoering was gegeven aan een bevorderingspraktijk die volgens de Centrale Raad in strijd was met het gelijkheidsbeginsel. In de uitspraak stelt de Centrale Raad vast dat de staatssecretaris over bevordering van militairen tijdens de initiële opleiding beleid heeft ontwikkeld dat onder meer is opgenomen in artikel 3:11 van de Voorlopige voorziening uitvoeringsregeling algemeen militair ambtenarenreglement (VVURAMAR). Meer specifiek gaat het om artikel 3:11 vierde lid, aanhef en onder a, van de VVURAMAR. Vervolgens gaat de Centrale Raad ervan uit dat de VVURAMAR geen algemeen verbindend voorschrift is, maar een beleidsregel. De aanname dat de VVURAMAR een beleidsregel is, was voor mij aanleiding om de status van deze regeling tegen het licht te houden.


Waar ging de zaak nu precies over?

Op de Koninklijke Militaire Academie worden officieren opgeleid voor de Koninklijke Landmacht, Koninklijke Luchtmacht en KMar. De twee grootste opleidingstrajecten hiervoor zijn: de Korte Officiersopleiding (KOO) en de Militair-wetenschappelijke Opleiding (MWO). Met een afgeronde hbo- of wo-opleiding kan men de eenjarige KOO volgen. Met een afgeronde vwo-opleiding kan de vierjarige MWO worden gevolgd. Een driejarige, geaccrediteerde bachelor is onderdeel van de MWO. Na zowel de KOO als de MWO volgt de vaktechnische opleiding. Na de generieke KOO of MWO bereidt de vaktechnische opleiding de cadetten voor op de specifieke groep van functies waarvoor zij zijn bestemd. KOO-cadetten en MWO-cadetten bestemd voor dezelfde groep van functies volgen gezamenlijk hun vaktechnische opleiding. Met de vaktechnische opleiding wordt de initiële opleiding tot officier afgerond.

Voor de KOO-cadetten die zijn bestemd voor de KMar was art. 3:11, vierde lid, aanhef en onder c, van de VVURAMAR van toepassing.4 Deze KOO-cadetten werden bevorderd tot tweede luitenant, nadat ze de KOO én de vaktechnische opleiding succesvol hadden afgerond.

Op grond van artikel 3:11, vijfde lid, aanhef en onder d, van de VVURAMAR worden KMar-cadetten die de MWO volgen, bevorderd tot tweede luitenant:

(1) nadat de volledige MWO, waarvan de bachelorstudie deel uitmaakt, succesvol is afgerond, of

(2) vier jaar na aanvang van de opleiding, indien het voor hem geldende reguliere opleidingstraject binnen de normale termijnen succesvol is doorlopen.

In praktijk kwam het bovenstaande op het volgende neer: voor MWO-cadetten vond de bevordering tot tweede luitenant plaats na afronding van de MWO, maar vóór de start van de vaktechnische opleiding. Voor KOO-cadetten vond de bevordering tot tweede luitenant op een later moment plaats, namelijk pas na afronding van de vaktechnische opleiding.

Appellant had de KOO gevolgd en was dus – in tegenstelling tot collega's die de MWO hadden gevolgd – pas na de vaktechnische opleiding tot tweede luitenant bevorderd. Daarom deed zij een beroep op het gelijkheidsbeginsel stellende dat zij op hetzelfde moment als haar collega's die de MWO volgden, had moeten worden bevorderd (voor aanvang van de vaktechnische opleiding). Volgens de Centrale Raad boden de namens de staatssecretaris aangehaalde verschillen tussen de KOO en de MWO onvoldoende rechtvaardiging om het verschil in bevorderingsmoment te rechtvaardigen. De Centrale Raad concludeerde dat de staatssecretaris artikel 3:11, vierde lid, aanhef en onder b en c, van de VVURAMAR, niet aan het bevorderingsbesluit van appellant ten grondslag had mogen leggen vanwege strijd met het gelijkheidsbeginsel.


Wat is een beleidsregel en wat is een algemeen verbindend voorschrift?

In artikel 1:3, vierde lid, van de Algemene wet bestuursrecht (Awb) is opgenomen wat onder een beleidsregel moet worden verstaan. Het gaat om een gedeeltelijk negatieve definitie, namelijk: een bij besluit vastgestelde algemene regel, niet zijnde een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, omtrent de afweging van belangen, de vaststelling van feiten of de uitleg van wettelijke voorschriften bij het gebruik van een bevoegdheid van een bestuursorgaan. Er kan dus alleen sprake zijn van een beleidsregel als in ieder geval geen sprake is van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Dat betekent dat voordat kan worden vastgesteld of de VVURAMAR een beleidsregel is, eerst moet worden uitgesloten dat het om een algemeen verbindend voorschrift gaat.

Wat moet dan worden verstaan onder algemeen verbindend voorschrift? De Awb-wetgever hanteert de volgende definitie: een naar buiten werkende, voor de daarbij betrokkenen bindende regel, uitgegaan van het openbaar gezag dat de bevoegdheid daartoe aan de wet ontleent.5 Onder 'naar buiten werkend' valt ook de rechtsverhouding tussen de ambtenaar en het bestuursorgaan. Het gaat om werking buiten het bestuursorgaan zelf, in dit geval is dat de minister.6 De rechtsnorm moet ook algemeen van aard zijn. Dat wil zeggen dat de rechtsnorm zich tot een open groep personen moet richten en voor herhaalde toepassing vatbaar moet zijn. Dat de VVURAMAR voor herhaalde toepassing vatbaar is, staat buiten kijf. Dat de open groep van personen (alleen) uit militairen bestaat, doet niet af aan het feit dat het op hen als groep van toepassing is. Het gaat niet om de groep specifieke individuen die militair zijn op een bepaald peilmoment, maar om iedereen die de status van militair heeft. De samenstelling van die groep kan voortdurend wisselen. Enigszins kort door de bocht betekent dat het volgende. Als je door aanstelling als militair onderdeel van de groep wordt, gelden de regels voor jou. Ben je door ontslag geen onderdeel meer van de groep, dan gelden de regels niet meer voor jou.7 Dat de VVURAMAR uitgaat van het openbaar gezag mag duidelijk zijn. Ook aan dat vereiste is dus voldaan. Voorts is de VVURAMAR gebaseerd op een aan de wet ontleende bevoegdheid. In artikel 24b, zevende lid, van het Algemeen militair ambtenarenreglement (AMAR) delegeert de regering aan de minister de (regelgevende) bevoegdheid om nadere regels op te stellen over de bevordering tijdens of aansluitend op een opleiding. Regelgeving binnen het bereik van een regelgevende bevoegdheid moet volgens de Awb-wetgever worden opgevat als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, tenzij het tegendeel uitdrukkelijk blijkt. Dit laatste is het geval als in de wettekst – bij het toekennen van die regelgevende bevoegdheid – uitdrukkelijk is aangegeven dat de nadere regels bij beleidsregel moeten worden vastgesteld.8 Andersom wordt er bij het ontbreken van een regelgevende bevoegdheid van uitgegaan dat geen sprake is van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift.9 Paragraaf 3.3.1 van de VVURAMAR valt in ieder geval binnen het bereik van de regelgevende bevoegdheid van artikel 24b, zevende lid, van het AMAR. Die paragraaf bevat immers exact datgene wat bij het toekennen van regelgevende bevoegdheid is gespecificeerd, namelijk nadere regels over de bevordering tijdens of aansluitend op een opleiding.10

Nu aan al deze vereisten om te kunnen spreken van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift is voldaan, blijft nog een belangrijk aspect over. Er moet sprake zijn van een 'regel', oftewel een rechtsnorm. Deze rechtsnorm moet een zelfstandige normstelling bevatten.11 Hier dient zich een belangrijk onderscheid aan tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften enerzijds en beleidsregels anderzijds. Beleidsregels hebben geen zelfstandig normstellend karakter. Beleidsregels hangen samen met een bevoegdheid die het bestuursorgaan al bezit (artikel 4:81 Awb). Naar mijn mening bevat artikel 3:11, vierde lid, aanhef en onder c, van de VVURAMAR geen zelfstandige normstelling. In artikel 24b, eerste lid, van het AMAR wordt een norm gesteld, namelijk dat bevordering kan plaatsvinden bij het afsluiten van de initiële opleiding of een gedeelte daarvan. Mede daarom is artikel 24b, eerste lid, van het AMAR zelf wél aan te merken als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Artikel 3:11, vierde lid, aanhef en onder c, van de VVURAMAR voegt daar geen nieuwe norm aan toe, maar specificeert slechts welk gedeelte van de opleiding moet worden afgesloten om tot een specifieke rang te worden bevorderd.12 Het ontbreken van een zelfstandige normstelling zou betekenen dat er naar inhoud van de bepaling geen sprake is van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Hierna leg ik uit dat mogelijk wel sprake kan zijn van een beleidsregel.

Om van een beleidsregel te kunnen spreken, moet de regeling volgens artikel 1:3, vierde lid, van de Awb ook betrekking hebben op de afweging van belangen, de vaststelling van feiten of de uitleg van wettelijke voorschriften bij het gebruik van een bevoegdheid van een bestuursorgaan. Van zuivere feitenvaststelling of interpretatie van een wettelijk voorschrift is geen sprake. Artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR zegt namelijk niets over de manier waarop naar een voorliggend feitencomplex moet worden gekeken. Ook geeft artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR niet aan hoe bepaalde wettelijke begrippen door het bestuursorgaan worden geïnterpreteerd. Dan blijft de afweging van belangen over. Het artikel geeft in een soort als-dan-constructie aan tot welke rang iemand moet worden bevorderd als diegene een specifieke opleiding of een gedeelte daarvan succesvol afrondt. Mijns inziens is het standpunt goed verdedigbaar dat artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR regels bevat omtrent de afweging van belangen bij de toepassing van de bevorderingsbevoegdheid uit artikel 24b, eerste lid, van het AMAR. Er wordt namelijk bepaald welke rang (en dus ook bijbehorende bezoldiging) de minister vindt passen bij het afronden van specifieke opleidingen of delen daarvan. In artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR is dus bepaald hoe de minister invulling wil geven aan de bevoegdheid uit artikel 24b, eerste lid van het AMAR. Daarmee is invulling gegeven aan de belangenafweging bij gebruikmaking van die bevoegdheid.

Naar inhoud is dus te verdedigen dat artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR een beleidsregel is. Uit de jurisprudentie blijkt echter dat als onderdelen van een regeling geen zelfstandige normstelling inhouden, zij kunnen delen in het normstellende karakter van de andere bepalingen in die regeling, waardoor deze onderdelen door hun samenhang met de rest van de regeling als algemeen verbindend voorschrift kunnen worden aangemerkt.13 Munneke concludeert dat de Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State (Afdeling) de wens lijkt te hebben dat een bepaalde regeling altijd slechts één rechtskarakter heeft.14 In theorie zouden binnen een regeling zowel algemeen verbindende voorschriften als beleidsregels kunnen bestaan. De wens van de Afdeling is mijns inziens pragmatisch. Als de VVURAMAR dus als geheel valt aan te merken als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, dan zou artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR daarmee toch ook aan te merken zijn als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Daar komt nog bij dat bij verschillende bepalingen, zoals bijvoorbeeld artikel 3:8 van de VVURAMAR, rechtstreeks wordt (terug)verwezen naar de regelgevende bevoegdheid in het AMAR waarop het artikel is gebaseerd. Dat is aanleiding om aan te nemen dat toch sprake is van algemeen verbindende voorschriften. Dat niet bij alle bepalingen in de VVURAMAR sprake is van een zelfstandige normstelling doet daar, gelet op de jurisprudentie, niet aan af. Artikel 3:11 is namelijk geen zelfstandig element van de VVURAMAR, maar maakt integraal onderdeel uit van de regeling.15 De VVURAMAR (als gehele regeling) draagt het karakter van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, omdat het 1) binnen het bereik valt van regelgevende bevoegdheden, waaronder die genoemd in artikel 24b, zevende lid, van het AMAR,16 en 2) het gros van de overige bepalingen wel algemeen verbindende voorschriften betreffen.17

Artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR lijkt naar inhoud beschouwd dus weliswaar meer op een beleidsregel dan op een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Het algehele karakter van de VVURAMAR en het feit dat ook de specifieke bepaling, artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR, binnen het bereik van een regelgevende bevoegdheid valt, betekent – naar mijn mening – dat toch moet worden gesproken van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift. Hieronder zal ik nader stilstaan bij het belang van het onderscheid tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels.


Waarom is het onderscheid tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels van belang?

Refererend aan de titel van deze bijdrage is het de vraag of het uitmaakt of de VVURAMAR een algemeen verbindend voorschrift of een beleidsregel is. Komt het niet allebei op hetzelfde neer? Een belangrijk kenmerk van beleidsregels is dat een bestuursorgaan deze kan vaststellen voor zover het gaat over de uitoefening van een eigen bevoegdheid of een bevoegdheid die onder diens verantwoordelijkheid wordt uitgeoefend. Voor algemeen verbindende voorschriften geldt deze beperking niet. Deze kunnen zich ook rechtstreeks tot de burger richten. Daarnaast kunnen algemeen verbindende voorschriften – anders dan beleidsregels – slechts worden vastgesteld als daartoe een specifieke wettelijke grondslag bestaat. Als gevolg daarvan binden beleidsregels minder sterk dan algemeen verbindende voorschriften. Het belang van dit onderscheid wordt in de Memorie van Toelichting bij de derde tranche van de Awb meermaals benadrukt.18 Volgens de Awb-wetgever ligt de ratio hiervoor in het feit dat het bestuursorgaan regels vaststelt omtrent de eigen of onder zijn verantwoordelijkheid uitgeoefende bevoegdheid. Volgens de Memorie van Toelichting kan het niet zo zijn dat het bestuursorgaan zichzelf bij de uitoefening van zijn eigen bevoegdheid zo sterk bindt dat geen rekening meer kan worden gehouden met bijzondere omstandigheden. Zodanig bindende regels kunnen volgens de Awb-wetgever alleen tot stand worden gebracht door middel van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift.19 Voor beleidsregels bestaat een inherente afwijkingsbevoegdheid. Deze bevoegdheid is gebaseerd op de algemene bevoegdheid die is neergelegd in artikel 4:84 van de Awb. Een afwijkingsbevoegdheid voor algemeen verbindende voorschriften moet altijd op een uitdrukkelijke wettelijke grondslag berusten. Dat kan bijvoorbeeld in de vorm van een zogenoemde hardheidsclausule. Bij beschouwing van artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR valt op dat de bevoegdheid tot bevordering volledig wordt gebonden. De VVURAMAR biedt niet expliciet ruimte om rekening te houden met bijzondere omstandigheden. Artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR gaat over de momenten waarop de militair wordt bevorderd. Deze mate van bindende kracht zou gelet op de memorie van toelichting dus enkel in een algemeen verbindend voorschrift kunnen worden vervat. Als de VVURAMAR algemeen verbindende voorschriften bevat, dan kan dus niet worden afgeweken van de in de regeling opgenomen bepaling. Een expliciete afwijkingsmogelijkheid (hardheidsclausule) ontbreekt namelijk.

De bindende kracht van algemeen verbindende voorschriften vloeit voort uit de mate van democratische legitimatie die aan deze voorschriften ten grondslag zou liggen. Bij de mate van democratische legitimatie van een ministeriële regeling, zoals de VVURAMAR, kunnen echter de nodige vraagtekens worden gezet.20 De algemeen verbindende voorschriften worden namelijk door de minister zonder verdere (parlementaire) controle vastgesteld. Hetzelfde geldt voor de beleidsregels, omdat de bevoegdheid tot bevordering aan de minister toekomt. Voor de volledigheid merk ik nog op dat voor het vaststellen van bepaalde ministeriële regelingen, zoals onder andere die bedoeld in artikel 24b van het AMAR, door de minister mandaat is verleend aan de Hoofddirecteur Personeel van het Directoraat-Generaal Beleid.21 Voor zover algemeen verbindende voorschriften zich normaliter onderscheiden door hun democratische legitimatie is dat verschil met beleidsregels in dit geval dus verwaarloosbaar.

Zowel algemeen verbindende voorschriften als beleidsregels zijn besluiten of worden bij besluit vastgesteld. Het zijn (vormen van) besluiten van algemene strekking. De totstandkoming moet dus voldoen aan de Awb, de in jurisprudentie uitgewerkte normen en de algemene beginselen van behoorlijk bestuur. Voor bekendmaking van beleidsregels geldt artikel 3:42 van de Awb. Is een beleidsregel niet op de voorgeschreven manier bekendgemaakt, dan kan een bestuursorgaan zich niet op de beleidsregel beroepen. De beleidsregel is dan onverbindend net als een wettelijk voorschrift.22 Artikel 3:42 van de Awb geldt, gelet op artikel 3:1 van de Awb, niet voor besluiten inhoudende algemeen verbindende voorschriften. Een algemeen verbindend voorschrift treedt niet in werking voordat het op de voorgeschreven wijze is bekendgemaakt, aldus artikel 8 van de Bekendmakingswet. Op dit punt maakt het niet uit of de VVURAMAR wordt aangemerkt als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift of als een beleidsregel. Voor ministeriële regelingen en beleidsregels vanwege het Rijk geldt dat ze moeten worden gepubliceerd in de Staatscourant (artikel 5, aanhef en sub a respectievelijk sub e, van de Bekendmakingswet). Een dergelijke publicatie is niet te vinden. Er zijn in 2020 wel twee wijzigingen van bijlage 1 behorende bij de VVURAMAR gepubliceerd.23 Waarom de VVURAMAR zelf niet is gepubliceerd, is niet duidelijk. Linksom of rechtsom is de VVURAMAR dus niet op de voorgeschreven wijze bekendgemaakt, waardoor de regeling niet in werking is getreden. In die zin is de VVURAMAR dus onverbindend. Dat al ruim tien jaar besluiten worden genomen met inachtneming van de VVURAMAR en dat de regeling deel uitmaakt van een geaccepteerde praktijk doet daar niet aan af. Op basis van die praktijk kan hooguit worden gesproken van een vaste gedragslijn.

Het onderscheid tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels uit zich ook in de manier waarop deze door de rechter worden getoetst. Voor beiden geldt dat rechtstreeks beroep ertegen is uitgesloten in artikel 8:3, eerste lid, aanhef en onder a, van de Awb. Zogeheten exceptieve toetsing aan hoger recht of algemeen rechtsbeginselen is wel mogelijk, tenzij de algemeen verbindende voorschriften wetten in formele zin betreffen (artikel 120 GW). Exceptieve toetsing komt er, kort gezegd, op neer dat men beroep in stelt tegen een besluit dat is genomen met inachtneming van of op basis van beleidsregels of een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, waardoor de rechter via dat besluit de achterliggende beleidsregel of het achterliggende algemeen verbindend voorschrift kan toetsen. Zowel algemeen verbindende voorschriften (niet zijnde wetten in formele zin) als beleidsregels kunnen worden getoetst aan hoger recht en algemene rechtsbeginselen. De uitkomst van een toetsing aan het gelijkheidsbeginsel zou dus in beide gevallen op hetzelfde neerkomen. Aan die rechterlijke toetsing zijn in geval van algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels wel verschillende uitgangspunten verbonden.24

Voor beleidsregels geldt dat deze ten dienste staan van de bevoegdheid waaraan ze zijn verbonden. De indringendheid van de rechterlijke toetsing wordt bepaald door de bevoegdheid waaraan de beleidsregels zijn verbonden. De rechter toetst of de beleidsregels in strijd zijn met de wet of de redelijke beleidsvorming. Los van de beleidsregels moeten deze besluiten de rechtelijke toets ook nog steeds kunnen doorstaan. Als dat niet het geval is, dan moet het bestuursorgaan op basis van de inherente afwijkingsbevoegdheid van de beleidsregels afwijken. Bij beleidsregels wordt dus telkens de uitwerking van die beleidsregel in het concrete geval getoetst.25

Bij de toetsing van algemeen verbindende voorschriften wordt de uitwerking van die regel in individuele gevallen niet tot uitgangspunt genomen. Algemeen verbindende voorschriften zijn, zoals de naam al zegt, immers algemeen van aard. Die algemene regel wordt op een bepaalde groep van personen toegepast. Dat kan betekenen dat de gevolgen van de toepassing in het ene geval minder redelijk en billijk zijn dan in het andere geval. Het is aan de wet- of regelgever om met dit gegeven rekening te houden bij het afwegen van de verschillende belangen bij het opmaken van de algemeen verbindende voorschriften. De keuzes die hierbij worden gemaakt berusten op democratische legitimatie. Het bestuursorgaan kan alleen afwijken van algemeen verbindende voorschriften als daarvoor een uitdrukkelijke grondslag bestaat. Bij exceptieve toetsing zal de rechter het algemeen verbindend voorschrift zelf los van de uitwerking daarvan in het individuele geval toetsen aan hoger recht en aan algemene rechtsbeginselen. Voor de goede orde merk ik op dat dit uitgangspunt niet betekent dat het besluit dat is gebaseerd op het algemeen verbindend voorschrift in stand kan blijven als het algemeen verbindend voorschrift in strijd wordt geoordeeld met hoger recht of een algemeen rechtsbeginsel.26

Samengevat zijn de volgende verschillen tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels van belang: aan algemeen verbindende voorschriften wordt meer bindende kracht toegekend dan aan beleidsregels. De algemeen verbindende voorschriften in de VVURAMAR zijn gebaseerd op een gedelegeerde regelgevende bevoegdheid (artikel 24b, zevende lid, van het AMAR). Enige vorm van democratische legitimatie is gelegen in het feit dat de regering deze bevoegdheid op haar beurt gedelegeerd heeft gekregen van de formele wetgever (artikel 12 van de Wet Ambtenaren Defensie). De bevoegdheid voor het opstellen van beleidsregels ontleent de minister (slechts) aan de bevoegdheid om te kunnen bevorderen tijdens of na afsluiting van de opleiding in combinatie met de algemene grondslag voor het opmaken van beleidsregels in artikel 4:81 Awb. De minister moet in lijn met die beleidsregels handelen, tenzij de uitwerking daarvan door bijzondere omstandigheden onevenredige gevolgen zou hebben. Van algemeen verbindende voorschriften kan alleen worden afgeweken als een uitdrukkelijke afwijkingsmogelijkheid is opgenomen. Tot slot zit een belangrijk verschil in de uitgangspunten voor de rechterlijke toetsing. Waar bij beleidsregels de uitwerking in het individuele geval centraal staat, dient bij exceptieve toetsing van algemeen verbindende voorschriften de algemene regel als uitgangspunt.


Behoort 'conversie' nog tot de mogelijkheden?

Als een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, zoals de VVURAMAR, onverbindend is, omdat het niet op de voorgeschreven wijze is bekendgemaakt, kan de rechter die regeling aanmerken als een beleidsregel of het bestuursorgaan de mogelijkheid bieden om dat zelf te doen. Dat wordt 'conversie' genoemd.27 Het doel hiervan is de regeling 'overeind te houden'. Het heeft er alle schijn van dat de VVURAMAR niet op de voorgeschreven wijze bekend is gemaakt. De VVURAMAR zou op basis hiervan dus niet in werking zijn getreden. Zou de Centrale Raad daarom de helpende hand hebben geboden door middel van het fenomeen 'conversie'?

Om een algemeen verbindend voorschrift te kunnen converteren, moet het voorschrift in ieder geval voldoen aan de vereisten die gelden voor een beleidsregel.28 Dat zou betekenen dat conversie ook geen oplossing biedt voor het bekendmakingsgebrek, omdat beleidsregels, vastgesteld vanwege het Rijk, ingevolge artikel 5, aanhef en onder e, van de Bekendmakingswet eveneens bekend moeten worden gemaakt in de Staatscourant. Zoals hierboven besproken, heeft die conclusie tot gevolg dat ook de beleidsregel onverbindend is. Mijns inziens kan de VVURAMAR om die reden niet worden geconverteerd in een beleidsregel. Er zijn nog twee belangrijke regels bij het converteren van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift in een beleidsregel, maar die lijken in dit geval geen probleem te vormen. Allereerst is conversie uitgesloten als op basis van het legaliteitsbeginsel verplicht is om uitsluitend gebruik te maken van algemeen verbindende voorschriften. De minister wordt in artikel 24b, zevende lid, van het AMAR niet verplicht om algemeen verbindende voorschriften op te maken. Er wordt alleen een bevoegdheid gegeven om dat te kunnen doen. De tweede belangrijke regel ziet op de bevoegdheid. Conversie is niet mogelijk als het bestuursorgaan dat de algemene regels heeft vastgesteld niet de bevoegdheid heeft om beleidsregels op te stellen.29 Er is geen aanleiding om aan te nemen dat de VVURAMAR door een onbevoegd bestuursorgaan is opgesteld.



Het ligt voor de hand dat de VVURAMAR een algemeen verbindend voorschrift is. De belangrijkste indicaties daarvoor zijn het feit dat de regeling zijn basis vindt in een regelgevende bevoegdheid en het karakter van de gehele regeling (gelet op het gros van de bepalingen). Het gevolg van die conclusie is dat het niet mogelijk is om af te wijken van de bepalingen in de VVURAMAR. Nu had zo'n expliciete afwijkingsbevoegdheid voor wat betreft de rechterlijke toetsing in dit geval geen verschil gemaakt, omdat algemeen verbindende voorschriften net als beleidsregels aan algemene rechtsbeginselen kunnen worden getoetst. In beide gevallen zou een toetsing aan het gelijkheidsbeginsel feitelijk tot dezelfde uitkomst hebben geleid. Het algemeen verbindend voorschrift was door strijd met het gelijkheidsbeginsel buiten toepassing of zelfs onverbindend verklaard, waardoor het daarop gebaseerde bevorderingsbesluit niet in stand had kunnen blijven. Los van deze wellicht enigszins theoretisch ogende conclusie, is de regeling niet op de voorgeschreven wijze bekendgemaakt. Aangezien in het geval van de VVURAMAR dezelfde eisen worden gesteld aan bekendmaking van een beleidsregel als van een algemeen verbindend voorschrift, moet ik concluderen dat de regeling niet in werking is getreden. Ook hier had het onderscheid tussen algemeen verbindende voorschriften en beleidsregels uiteindelijk voor de feitelijke uitkomst geen doorslaggevende rol gespeeld. Op dit moment lijkt de VVURAMAR dan ook niet meer dan een vaste gedragslijn. Het is daarom tijd voor een deugdelijke bekendmaking en herziening. Dat is in ieder geval nodig voor artikel 3:11 van de VVURAMAR, omdat de Centrale Raad heeft vastgesteld dat deze bepaling in strijd is met het gelijkheidsbeginsel. Dat is een goed moment om de overige bepalingen ook tegen het licht te houden. Hopelijk wordt de regeling dan ook eindelijk van zijn voorlopig karakter ontdaan.

Naar boven