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Advance questions and statement to Belgium

Advance questions:

  1. In its 2011 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Belgium accepted the recommendation by Norway and other countries to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) as well as to establish a National Preventative Mechanism in accordance with the Optional Protocol. What are the main obstacles to the ratification of the OPCAT and the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism, and how do you intend to move forward in this matter?
  2. Belgium has a comparatively high number of unimplemented judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). What does Belgium intend to do in order to better fulfil its obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights?
  3. Belgium’s detainment of prisoners in psychiatric wards under the social defence law without offering treatment has been subject to a number of judgements by the ECHR, and does, according to the Council of Europe, manifest structural problems in the Belgian legal system. What does Belgium intend to do to prevent future violations in this field?
  4. Over the past year, the government has announced several measures to better deal with the threat of terrorist attacks. What kind of mechanisms will Belgium put in place to ensure that current or new counter-terrorism law, policies and practices are in compliance with international human rights law? Are there plans to launch human rights assessments of counter-terrorism legislation and practise?

Statement:

Norway commends Belgium for the follow-up of its last Universal Periodic Review in 2011, in particular in the field of children’s rights, gender equality and the combating of racism.

It is positive that Belgium has made all necessary legal changes to ratify the Istanbul Convention and presented a new Action Plan on Gender Based Violence encompassing several encouraging aspects. Sufficient funding for implementation of the plan will be important.

While measures have been taken, we recommend that Belgium establish a comprehensive plan and a system for recording and monitoring developments in the area of preventing xenophobia and discrimination, including hate speech and hate crimes.

Norway notes that Belgium has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Norway recommends that Belgium ratifies the OPCAT and establishes a National Preventive Mechanism in accordance with the Optional Protocol.

Finally, we recommend that Belgium establish a strong and well-funded National Human Rights Institution that is fully compliant with the Paris Principles.