1. The Committee considered the third periodic report of Belgium
(CCPR/C/94/Add.3) at its 1706th and 1707th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1706-1707)
held on 22 October 1998 and adopted the following concluding observations
at its 1720th meeting (CCPR/C/SR.1720) held on 2 November 1998.
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for
its comprehensive report, as well as for its very useful core document.
It welcomes the open and self-critical approach taken by the State
party in the preparation of the report, and notes the involvement
and collaboration of many national institutions and universities.
It observes, however, that while the report provides details on the
legal order, it contains little information on actual practice. The
Committee welcomes the additional data provided by the delegation
from the capital and its readiness to provide written answers to pending
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee commends the establishment of institutions aimed
at monitoring the observance of human rights by State authorities,
including the Centre for Equality and Against Racism (Centre pour
l'égalité et pour la lutte contre le racisme) and the committee to
monitor the police services, with jurisdiction over all branches of
the police force.
4. The Committee notes with satisfaction the establishment of the
Council on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women. It notes that the
participation of women in public affairs has increased since the previous
report, but requests that more detailed information on women's participation
in the workforce be made available in the next periodic report.
5. The Committee welcomes the ongoing measures to reform the judicial
system undertaken by the State party, in particular those aimed at
strengthening the independence of the judiciary through the establishment
of a Supreme Judicial Council and a Council of Attorneys-General.
The new law on the recruitment of judges and the increase in the number
of judges constitute positive developments. Furthermore, penal procedures
have been improved with regard to the gathering of information and
investigations, and the handling of information by the police. The
role of the police and of the investigating judge have been better
defined. The Committee welcomes the abrogation of the Act of 11 July
1994 with a view to modernizing the criminal justice system and reducing
the backlog in the courts of appeal.
6. The Committee takes note of new instructions relating to the methods
and techniques under which deportations are carried out.
7. The Committee notes with satisfaction that children of illegal
immigrants are entitled to education and medical care.
8. The Committee considers it a positive sign that unaccompanied
minors seeking asylum are not sent back to their countries of origin,
unless their safety is guaranteed.
9. With regard to the extradition of asylum seekers, the Committee
welcomes the assurances by the delegation that extradition procedures
are suspended until the asylum determination procedures are concluded.
10. The Committee welcomes the fact that Belgium has started the
procedure for ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant
aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
11. The Committee welcomes the establishment of an inter-ministerial
committee with competence over trafficking in persons, prostitution
and pornography, as well as the adoption of other legislative measures
with extraterritorial application. It also welcomes the enactment
of new laws aimed at combating more effectively the traffic in minors.
12. The Committee welcomes measures taken by the State party to improve
prison conditions, in particular by introducing alternative forms
of punishment and building new establishments to alleviate overcrowding.
C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
13. The Committee expresses its grave concern over the reports of
widespread police brutality against suspects in custody. It regrets
the lack of transparency in the conduct of investigations on the part
of police authorities and the difficulty in obtaining access to this
14. The Committee is concerned about the behaviour of Belgian soldiers
in Somalia under the aegis of the United Nations Operation in Somalia
(UNOSOM II), and acknowledges that the State party has recognized
the applicability of the Covenant in this respect and opened 270 files
for purposes of investigation. The Committee regrets that it has not
received further information on the results of the investigations
and adjudication of cases and requests the State party to submit this
15. Procedures used in the repatriation of some asylum seekers, in
particular the placing of a cushion on the face of an individual in
order to overcome resistance, entails a risk to life. The recent case
of a Nigerian national who died as a consequence of such techniques
illustrates the need to re-examine the whole procedure of forcible
deportations. The Committee would like to receive written information
on the results of the investigations as well as of any criminal or
disciplinary proceedings. It recommends that all security forces concerned
in effecting deportations should receive special training.
16. The Committee regrets that Belgium has not withdrawn its reservations
to the Covenant and urges the Government to reconsider its position,
in particular with regard to article 10. The Government's explanation
that the reservation is necessary because there is a problem of overcrowding
in prisons is not persuasive. In addition, alternative sentencing,
including community service, should be encouraged in view of its rehabilitative
17. Community services and parole should be monitored and supervised
in a more coherent way. The Committee encourages the Government to
undertake an overall review of its sentencing policy and consequent
training for the judiciary. The Committee is concerned that suspects
do not at present have access to counsel and to medical visits from
the moment of arrest. The Committee is also concerned about the non-application
of judicial guarantees in administrative tribunals and other non-judicial
entities. Suspects should be promptly informed of their rights in
a language they understand.
18. The Committee is concerned about the length of pre-trial detention
and about the high number of detainees in prisons who are still awaiting
trial. The Committee reminds the State party that pursuant to article
9, paragraph 3, of the Covenant, pre-trial detention should be considered
exceptional and must be justifiable. It urges the State party to review
its rules and practice for granting bail. The Committee notes furthermore
that the period of five months' detention, which may be extended to
eight months, to which asylum seekers may be subjected, may amount
to arbitrary detention in violation of article 9 of the Covenant,
unless the detention is subject to judicial review which secures the
release of the person if there is no lawful purpose being served by
19. Bearing in mind that pursuant to article 10, paragraph 3, of
the Covenant, the essential aim of incarceration should be the reformation
and social rehabilitation of offenders, the Committee urges the State
party to develop rehabilitation programmes both for the time during
imprisonment and for the period after release, when ex-offenders must
be reintegrated into society if they are not to become recidivists.
20. The Committee considers that the current jurisprudence of the
Court of Cassation stating that no judicial guarantees apply to the
pre-trial stage is inconsistent with the Covenant; consequently, these
guarantees should be extended to the pre-trial stage.
21. The Committee expresses grave concern about the retention of
article 53 of the Act of 8 April 1965 on the protection of young persons,
which entitles the authorities to incarcerate minors for a period
of 15 days. This practice raises questions not only under article
10 but under articles 7 and 24 as well. Furthermore, the practice
of not separating minors from adult offenders in jail is not only
incompatible with article 10, paragraph 3, but constitutes a violation
of article 24 of the Covenant.
22. While noting that the State party is taking measures to do away
with the practice of keeping psychiatric patients in prison psychiatric
annexes for several months before transferring them to hospitals that
treat mental disorders (établissement de protection sociale),
the Committee points out that this practice is incompatible with articles
7 and 9 of the Covenant and that it should be discontinued.
23. The Committee expresses its concern about the distinction made
in Belgian legislation between freedom of assembly and the right to
demonstrate, which is excessively restricted. It recommends that such
differentiation be abolished.
24. The Committee notes that the requirement of prior authorization
for foreign channels on cable networks is not entirely in conformity
with article 19. The right to freedom of broadcasting should first
be recognized; restrictions may be imposed as provided for in paragraph
3 of article 19.
25. The Committee notes that the procedures for recognizing religions
and the rules for public funding of recognized religions raise problems
under articles 18, 26 and 27 of the Covenant.
26. The Committee is concerned that the report gives very little
information on the de facto situation of women. The Committee requests
that the next report provide precise information on the outcome of
measures to promote equality and to combat violence against women.
27. The Committee remains concerned about the production, sale and
distribution of paedo-pornography. It urges the State party to take
effective measures to curtail the possession and distribution of these
28. The Committee is concerned that provisions relating to fake marriages
and to the expulsion of aliens may give insufficient protection to
the right to marry and family life as recognized in articles 17 and
23 of the Covenant.
29. The Committee requests the State party to ensure the publication
and wide dissemination in Belgium of the State party's report as well
as of the Committee's concluding observations.
30. The Committee has fixed the date for submission of Belgium's
fourth periodic report to be October 2002.