Strasburg-based CEDH (European Court of Human Rights) sentenced Belgium in 3 different cases for failure to motivate a verdict in a court of Assizes (which is an infringement to the right to a fair trial) on Monday, according to information published by Sudpresse newspapers on Tuesday. Already condemned for the same motive in 2009 in the now well-known Taxquet verdict, Belgium has made progress in the meantime, and the new law provides for juries to explain their motivation when convicting. 2 cases were sent to the court on July 25th, 2007 (Devriendt case), and on May 7th, 2008 (Maillard case), both of which took place before the Taxquet verdict (named for one of the accused in the Andre Cools murder trial). The third one (Kurt case) was taken to court on March 18th, 2010.
All 3 cases involve prisoners sentenced to lengthy imprisonment by Belgian court of Assizes juries on the basis of extremely elementary guilty verdicts (yes/no answers to the questions submitted by the court). Johan Devriendt and Philippe Maillard were sentenced to life for murder, and Cevher Kurt received a 30-year prison sentence, also for homicide.
In all 3 cases, CEDH notes “the stakes were high for each petitioner,” as the accused often denied the facts or their description. The court disagrees with the Belgian explanation, that the accused were aware of the charges through the indictment. The court concludes that there is in fact a violation of the right to a fair trial and condemns Belgium. The Belgian state will pay 2,000 euros in compensation to 2 of the 3 petitioners, Johan Devriendt and Philippe Maillard.
4 similar verdicts were issued last November by CEDH.