Belgium's slow court procedures 'a violation of human rights'

Belgium urgently needs to speed up court cases as the justice system’s slow procedures are a violation of human rights, the Federal Institute for Human Rights says. The institute addressed the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on Monday, De Standaard reports.

Belgium has already been condemned four times by the European Court of Human Rights, the last time in September 2023, over its lengthy procedures and backlog of cases. In Brussels, the situation is particularly serious, especially in the appeal court and the family court, the institute warns. 

“A court case that starts today can drag on for 10 years or more in some courts,” said director Martien Schotsmans. “How is an inheritance distributed? What if you have a problem buying a house? What are the legal consequences of a divorce? It is distressing that many people have to wait years for a decision in such matters.”

"The government should not try to solve one human rights violation with another violation"

A study by the College of Courts shows that the number of judges would have to be increased by almost half to reduce the workload sufficiently. 

“The government must invest more in staff and resources for justice. The job of magistrate should be made more attractive,” Schotsmans said. “But instead of investing in justice, the government is developing new measures and sanctions.”

These administrative sanctions allow municipalities to punish certain infringements without the intervention of a judge. 

“Without a judge, there is a greater risk that people will be unjustly or excessively punished without having been able to defend themselves and thus the right to a fair trial will not be respected,” said Schotsmans. “The government should not try to solve one human rights violation with another violation.”


The Justice Palace in Brussels © PHOTO BELPRESS

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