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Belgium condemned for failures in Brussels justice system

16:24 09/09/2023

The Belgian state has been found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of failures to meet the right to be tried within a reasonable time in the judicial district of Brussels.

The case concerns the sale of an apartment, which the claimant considered to be null and void due to a disagreement over consent.

The case was brought in 2015 and was first heard in 2017. An appeal was lodged and in 2018, when the case was ready to be heard, the clerk's office of the Brussels Court of Appeal informed the claimant that his case was on a waiting list and it could not promise to set a date before March 2026.

The claimant appealed unsuccessfully and lodged a complaint, in addition to giving formal notice to Belgium’s justice minister to take the necessary measures to reduce the waiting time.

But more delays and postponements followed and the 2015 case remains pending to this day.

“The system cannot function properly in the absence of domestic justice delivered within a reasonable time,” the ECHR ruled in its judgement, which also highlighted the “structural” problems of the Brussels judicial system.

“The court finds that the problems relating to the excessive length of proceedings in the Brussels judicial district are of a structural nature and do not relate solely to the applicant's personal situation,” the ruling added.

“The court considers that it is incumbent on the Belgian state to take the necessary measures to guarantee the right to be tried within a reasonable time in the Brussels judicial district.”

The Belgian state will have to pay the applicant €5,000 for non-pecuniary damage.

Written by Helen Lyons