Disputes of all kinds concerning the exercise or enjoyment of rights, including fundamental rights, may be brought before the Belgian courts. Proceedings may be instituted by individuals or by the authorities.
Which court has jurisdiction will depend on the nature and seriousness of the offence or on the status of the parties (businessman, journalist, etc.).
The Constitutional Court determines whether laws, decrees and ordinances comply with the following articles of the Constitution:
- Title II ‘Belgians and their rights’ (Articles 8 to 32);
- Articles 170 and 172 (legality and equity of taxes);
- Article 191 (protection of aliens).
Information on the way in which the courts are organised and on jurisdiction is provided on the pages of this portal dealing with:
- legal systems in the Member States - Belgium
- jurisdiction of the ordinary courts - Belgium
- specialised courts - Belgium (Council of State and Constitutional Court)
- Federal Public Justice Department
- Judiciary portal (addresses and case‑law of courts)
- Belgian State portal
Institutional ombudspersons are independent watchdogs set up by the (federal or regional) parliamentary assemblies to examine complaints lodged by members of the public concerning action taken by administrative bodies or the way in which these bodies operate. Within this general framework, they may be required to examine complaints which relate directly or indirectly to human rights. Ombudspersons check that the administrative authority is acting in accordance with instruments for the protection of human rights and with the rules of good administrative practice.
These ombudspersons should not be confused with bodies engaged in private mediation within the framework of civil or criminal‑law proceedings.
Ombudspersons may be contacted by anyone wishing to make a complaint against an administrative authority. Their involvement is free of charge, and they have wide‑ranging investigative powers.
Ombudspersons attempt to resolve complaints with the administrative body and to provide the competent authority with recommendations on how to address any problems. Their activity report is published.
The ombudsperson with jurisdiction varies according to the administrative authority concerned.
For federal matters, the Federal Ombudsperson should be contacted.
The following departments can be contacted for matters falling within the remit of the Regions and Communities:
- Walloon Region Mediation Service
- French Community Mediation Service
- Flemish Ombudsperson’s Service
- Ombudsperson for the German‑speaking Community
There are also specialist ombudspersons for children:
- General Delegate for the Rights of the Child of the French Community;
- Flemish Commission for Children's Rights
Centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism
The tasks of the Centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism include promoting equal opportunities and combating all forms of differentiation, exclusion, restriction or preference based on: nationality, so-called race, skin colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, marital status, birth, wealth, age, religious or philosophical beliefs, current or future state of health, disability, political beliefs, physical or genetic characteristics or social background.
The Centre can be contacted by:
- anyone who has questions about, or wishes to obtain an opinion on, discrimination, racism, residence or foreign nationals’ fundamental rights;
- anyone who has been a victim of, or who has witnessed, discrimination or racism.
The Centre’s frontline service provides an initial answer and, if necessary, collects further information with a view to follow‑up.
If an analysis or more in‑depth study is required or if third parties have to be contacted with a view to processing a request, the file will be forwarded to a specialist in the Centre’s second line service.
If it transpires from the analysis that the Centre is not competent, it will notify the party concerned and, if possible, redirect him/her to another service or individual which will be able to deal with the request (an administrative body, a private or public body specialising in frontline or second line assistance, the police or a lawyer).
The Centre can be contacted direct. The Centre’s website also provides the addresses of various associations or institutions which have specialist knowledge or are active at local level with which the Centre has signed a cooperation agreement and which can also be contacted for help with discrimination‑related issues.Centre pour l’égalité des chances et la lutte contre le racisme 138 rue Royale 1000 Brussels. Tel.: (+32) 800.12.800 – (information freephone) (+32) 2. 212 30 00
Gender Equality Institute
The Gender Equality Institute is an independent public body which promotes equality between women and men and combats sex discrimination.
The Institute may provide legal aid and institute legal proceedings in cases involving discrimination between men and women or discrimination against transsexuals.
The Institute can be contacted using an online form or at the following address:Institut pour l'égalité des femmes et des hommes 1 Rue Ernest Blerot 1070 Brussels Tel: (+32) 800.12.800 – (freephone for information) (+32)18.104.22.168 Fax: (+32)22.214.171.124
Data protection Body
The Privacy Commission
The Commission ensures that personal data are not used in an unlawful manner. It also deals with requests for information and complaints.
These complaints may originate in either the public or private sector and may, in general, be submitted by any member of the public who feels that his or her right to personal data protection has been infringed.
After the complaint’s admissibility has been checked, and an adversarial procedure concluded, the Commission will try to mediate between the parties. Where appropriate, it issues recommendations to the data controller, reports the infringement to the office of the public prosecutor or institutes proceedings in the civil courts.
The Privacy Commission also deals with information requests and numerous questions on personal data protection which data controllers, sub‑contractors and parties concerned submit to it every day (surveillance cameras, direct marketing and the right to object, credit, privacy at work, access to data, etc.).
Complaints and information requests can be sent to the Privacy Commission by mail, by email or (for frontline assistance) using its contact form.
The Commission can be contacted at the following address:Commission de la protection de la vie privée Rue Haute, 139 1000 Brussels Tel. (+32) 2 213 85 40
Other specialised bodies
Prison monitoring committees
Prison monitoring committees ensure external oversight of the treatment of prisoners. They pass on prisoners’ complaints to the prison authorities or to the Minister for Justice with a view to finding solutions.
Each prison has a monitoring committee. Each committee comprises members of the public, representing civil society, plus at least one doctor and one lawyer, and is chaired by a magistrate. The Central Monitoring Council (Conseil central de surveillance) coordinates the work of the local committees and provides the Minister for Justice with opinions on the treatment of prisoners, either at his/her request or on its own initiative.
The Complaints Committee (with responsibility for aliens held in closed detention centres, accommodation centres or holding centres).
The Complaints Committee handles individual complaints lodged by aliens held in closed detention centres, accommodation centres or holding centres concerning their holding conditions and, in particular, circumstances arising inside these detention and accommodation centres which involve the rights and obligations laid down in the Royal Decrees of 2 August 2002 (closed centres), 8 June 2009 (holding centres) and 14 May 2009 (accommodation centres).
The individuals held in these centres may be illegal immigrants, rejected asylum seekers or aliens who do not meet entry or residence requirements.
Complainants wishing to contest a decision may lodge an appeal with the Council of State.
The Committee can be contacted at the following address:
Secrétariat permanent de la Commission des plaintesService Public Fédéral Intérieur Rue de Louvain, 1 1000 Brussels
Standing Police Monitoring Committee
The Standing Police Monitoring Committee is the police’s external monitoring body, and reports to Parliament. The Committee’s oversight focuses on protection of the rights conferred on individuals by the Constitution and the law, coordination of police forces and the efficiency of those forces.
Any member of the public affected by police intervention may lodge a complaint, report abuse or submit any other information to the Standing Police Monitoring Committee.
Any member of the police force may also lodge a complaint or report abuse to the Committee without first asking their superiors’ permission, and may not be punished for doing so.
Complaints can be lodged using an electronic form.
The Committee can be contacted at the following address:Comité permanent de contrôle des services de police Rue de la Presse 35/1 1000 Brussels Tel.: (+32) 2.286.28.11 Fax: (+32) 2.286.28.99 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frontline citizens advice services
Frontline citizens advice involves providing information to members of the public with questions about or problems with the justice system in very specific areas.
- Civil law: separation, divorce, general information on parental responsibility, children’s principal, secondary or alternate place of residence, access rights.
- Criminal law: mediation in criminal cases, alternatives to preventive detention, probation, community service, parole, provisional release from internment to protect the public, rehabilitation, pardon, electronic surveillance, prison leave, suspended sentence, limited detention, interim release with a view to expulsion or extradition, interim release on medical grounds, substitution of a custodial sentence by community service.
- Information for victims of crime: rights of civil parties/injured parties.
- General information on proceedings in the civil and criminal courts.
The address book of the Federal Public Justice Department contains a list of community justice centres.
Frontline and second line legal assistance and legal aid
Frontline legal assistance consists of practical or legal information or an initial legal opinion provided in the course of a brief consultation. Frontline legal assistance is provided by members of the legal profession, usually lawyers.
Second line legal assistance involves appointing a lawyer, subject to certain conditions, who will work for nothing or for a reduced fee. Procedural costs (bailiffs, experts, copies, etc.) are not waived either in full or in part, but they may be covered under legal aid arrangements.
Members of the public benefiting from legal aid are exempted, in full or in part, from paying judicial or extra‑judicial procedural costs if they do not have sufficient income to do so.
For further information see the page of the e‑justice portal on procedural costs in Belgium.
- Publication of the Federal Public Justice Department on access to justice in Belgium
- Association of French-speaking and German-speaking Bars of Belgium (OBFG)
- Association of Flemish Bars (OVB)
Committee for financial assistance to victims of deliberate acts of violence and to persons who assist them
The law makes provision for state financial assistance to victims of deliberate acts of violence and to persons who assist them and, in some cases, to their relatives.
The Committee can be contacted direct but applications can also be submitted via a ‘victim aid’ lawyer or hotline at social aid departments, a list of which is available on the website of the Federal Public Justice Department (see Index, Justice from A to Z, financial aid to victims).
The Committee can be contacted at the following address:Service public fédéral de la Justice Commission pour l’aide financière aux victimes d’actes intentionnels de violence et aux sauveteurs occasionnels Boulevard de Waterloo 115, Tel.: (+32)2.542.72.07 (+32)2.542.72.08
For further information see the page of the e‑justice portal on victims’ rights.
The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.
Last update: 07/11/2012