Belgium n° 1 for children's access to court


Nowhere in the world do children have easier access to a court than in Belgium. That is what is found in the report of the Child Rights International Network (CRIN). Number 2 and 3 are Portugal and Spain. The rest of the top 10 is completed by Finland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Kenya, Iceland, Latvia and the United Kingdom.

The CRIN report shows that it is easiest for children in Belgium to have their rights defended. This is, among other things, because they have a right to speak and there are free youth lawyers.

For instance, the Belgian Law of the Family Court of 1 September 2014 stipulates that children of 12 years of age or older are automatically invited by the judge to say what they find important when their parents are in conflict, for example. Children do not have to make use of this offer, but they do have the right to. Children under 12 years of age are not automatically summoned, but if they ask the judge to be heard, it is his duty to honour this request.

Belgium also scores well when it comes to the representation of minors by a lawyer. Each minor in our country automatically qualifies for free legal assistance.

However, according to the Belgian Commissioner for Children's Rights Bruno Vanobbergen there is still room for improvement. "In practice you see that there is still plenty of room for improvement for the communication between judges and adolescents. If you look at how informed children and adolescents are for example: they do not always know what is possible, what their rights are. Also the education of youth lawyers should be much more embedded."

The CRIN study conducted research in 197 countries on the accessibility of justice for children and adolescents. An accessible justice department for minors means that they themselves, or their legal representatives, have the adequate ways and means to protect their rights, prevent and solve conflicts and tackle any possible kind of abuse via the legal system.