Belgium condemned for structural backlog of courts in Brussels
The Belgian state must take the necessary measures to guarantee the "right to be tried within a reasonable time" in the judicial district of Brussels, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday.
"It is primarily for the national courts to ensure respect for the rights guaranteed by the (European) Convention on Human Rights. However, this cannot function properly if national courts are not available within reasonable time limits," the ECHR said.
"The Court finds that the problems of the excessive duration of proceedings in the judicial district of Brussels are of a structural nature"
The ECHR also points to structural problems in the Brussels judicial system. "The Court finds that the problems of the excessive duration of proceedings in the judicial district of Brussels are of a structural nature and do not relate solely to the personal situation of the applicant," it says.
"The Court considers that it is for the Belgian State to take the necessary measures to guarantee the right to be tried within a reasonable time in the judicial district of Brussels."
The case revolves around the sale of an apartment, which the plaintiff claims is void because there was no consent. The case was initiated in 2015 and the first judgement was handed down in 2017. An appeal was lodged, but in 2018, while the case was still pending, the registry of the Court of Appeal in Brussels reported that the case was on a waiting list and could not be heard before March 2026.
The plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to contact the president of the court and then filed a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Council. He also sued Belgium's minister of Justice to enforce measures to reduce the waiting time. The Belgian State must now pay the plaintiff 5,000 euros in moral damages.
The Justice Palace in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK