court of assize

Court of Assize (Belgium)

The Court of Assize, (Hof van Assisen, Cour d'Assises) in Belgium is very similar to the French court of the same name. It has jurisdiction over all felonies that haven't been correctionalised, over political offences and press-related offences, except those inspired by racism or xenophobia, and over crimes of international law, such as genocide and crimes against humanity. These courts sit in each of the ten provinces and in the administrative arrondissement of Brussels-Capital. Unlike the other courts, which have a permanent structure, a Court of Assize has to be constituted for each specific case. It comprises three professional judges and 12 jurors.

The presiding judge is to be a judge at a Court of Appeal and is assisted by two judges of Courts of First Instance. The jury invariably consists of twelve members, who are balloted out of the citizens having the right to vote at elections and aged between thirty and sixty, and they must be able to read and write. In addition, it is possible to call up one to twelve alternate jurors. Only the jury decides upon the facts, and with the judges the penalty is determined. There is no appeal for the verdicts, apart from one before the Court of Cassation.

Mainly handling murder cases, it is the only court constitutionally authorized to judge delicts regarding the freedom of the press – though few practical cases have been considered to envolve an infliction on that freedom and thus nearly all incidents were tried by lower courts.

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