Annual Report: Belgium 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Belgium 2013

View More Research

Kingdom of Belgium

Head of state King Albert II

Head of government Elio Di Rupo

The European Court of Human Rights found that Belgium had violated the right to a fair trial. The authorities took the first steps towards the creation of a National Human Rights Institution.

Unfair trials

  • On 25 September, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in El Haski v. Belgium that, by using evidence likely to have been obtained through torture in criminal proceedings, Belgium had violated Lahoucine El Haski’s right to a fair trial. He had been convicted in 2006 of participating in the activities of a terrorist group on the basis of testimonies of witnesses interrogated in third countries, including Morocco. The Court found that there was a “real risk” that statements used against him from Morocco may have been obtained through torture or other ill-treatment, and that the Belgian courts should have excluded such evidence.

Prison conditions

Psychiatric facilities for prisoners with mental disabilities continued to be inadequate. On 2 October the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Belgium had violated the right to liberty and security of L.B., a man with mental health problems, by detaining him for over seven years in prison facilities which were inadequate for his condition.

In December, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concerns over overcrowding and inadequate sanitary facilities in many Belgian prisons.

Discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief continued, especially against Muslims, in public education and in the workplace. The general prohibition on wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress remained in force in Flemish public education.

A law criminalizing the concealing of the face in public remained in force. On 6 December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the law was consistent with Belgium’s constitution and obligations under international law.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

In January, the authorities increased the number of spaces in reception centres for asylum-seekers. However, places remained insufficient, and undocumented migrant families were still denied access. Some unaccompanied minors were housed in inadequate facilities, where they did not receive adequate legal, medical and social assistance.

Housing rights

On 21 March, the European Committee of Social Rights found that Belgium had violated the non-discrimination clause of the European Social Charter as well as the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection on account of the inadequate provision of temporary and permanent sites for Travellers.

Arms trade

In June, the Flemish and Walloon parliaments passed new regional legislation on the import, export and transfer of arms, imposing inadequate checks on the final destination of the weapons sold.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In July, the authorities decided to establish a National Human Rights Institution.

On 11 September, Belgium signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • An Amnesty International delegate visited Belgium in April and June.
  • Choice and prejudice – discrimination against Muslims in Europe (EUR 01/001/2012)