'A huge task which must be carried out in a flexible and rapid procedure': Belgium’s Tribunals for War Damages (1918-1935) as remediator for damages caused by the Great War
“Poor Little Belgium” has suffered greatly during the Great War. The population faced four years of occupation, whereas cities like Ypres, Dinant and Leuven have become ‘martyrs’, symbols of destruction wrought by the First World War. Quite rapidly, Belgium’s government in exile was aware that the country’s reconstruction would be a daunting task. It undertook several initiatives, but the politicians believed administrative bodies would be prone for clientelism and bribery. In their opinion a judicial institution was suitable to rule objectively and legally over compensation requests. Inspired by the French example, Belgium’s Ministers installed the Tribunals and Courts for War Damages and created a ‘new right’ for its nationals. This contribution puts those Tribunal and Courts for War Damages in the spotlight and scrutinises its role within the post-World War One crisis that Belgium has suffered between 1919 and 1935. Politicians had shown faith in the righteousness of a legal institution to deal with the compensation question for civilians. Despite the best of intentions, these courts fell short of their objectives in managing reconstruction in the aftermath of the Great War. The legislation underpinning their operations was too chaotic, procedure was too formal, and in certain districts the staff was not up to the task. The Great War was one of unprecedented devastation and no professional within these courts could rely on early experiences to deal with the claims of citizens. Moreover, the tribunals did not receive adequate material support from local and national governments who only saw expenses spinning out of control. Based on a sample of cases ruled by the Tribunals for War Damages in different districts, i.e. Ypres, Dendermonde and Turnhout, this contribution will sketch procedural and practical differences. The archival sources are completed with legislation and legal doctrine interpreting and explaining these legislative texts.
Source (journal)
Rechtskultur : Zeitschrift für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte. - Regenstauf, s.a.
Regenstauf : Edition Rechtskultur in der H. Gietl Verlag & Publikationsservice GmbH , 2023
11 (2023) , p. 1-26
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Creation 26.04.2024
Last edited 26.04.2024
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