Belgian parliament finally approves creation of human rights institute
Share article:
Share article:

Belgian parliament finally approves creation of human rights institute

The foreign affairs committee of the federal parliament this week voted in favour of the creation of a national centre for human rights – 26 years after the idea was first proposed. The idea goes back to 1993, and the world conference on human rights held in Vienna. As a result of that conference, 23 of the current 28 member states of the EU have created such a centre. Belgium is now on the way to catching up.

The remit of the centre is to bring the attention of the state to human rights questions which are not handled by existing organisations. In Belgium, that means one of 15 or so organisations dealing with the issue. Among them government-funded Unia, formerly know as the centre for equal opportunities and the fight against racism, whose remit is self-explanatory.

tbtison4Lprun1304Professor Olivier De Schutter © Heinrich Böll Stiftung/Wikipedia

However according to Olivier Deschutter of the UN committee on economic social and cultural affairs, quoted in Le Soir, some areas of human rights remain unsupervised in Belgium. “The freedom of association, or the freedom of expression, for example, have no watchdog,” he said. “Economic and social rights, like the right to health care, housing, food or a job, are insufficiently assured.”

The new institute would occupy a new level above the various existing organisations, scrutinising the government’s adherence to human rights laws, and providing a one-stop shop for international organisations like the UN to enter into dialogue with Belgium.

Explaining the long and winding road from Vienna in 1993 to this week’s go-ahead, De Schutter pointed to the willingness expressed by successive governments to create a national centre, faced with the typically Belgian problem of reaching an agreement with regional governments and the language communities.

As if to demonstrate that problem, the vote in the foreign affairs committee was immediately criticised by Flemish nationalist party N-VA, which described the new centre as parliament offering itself an “election gift that demonstrates a useless, pointless and expensive rush-job”. Rita Bellens of N-VA was the only member to vote against the proposal. Like several federal governments before it, the Michel government, which until November included the N-VA, had included the centre in its governing accord – a rush job that dates back, this time alone, to 2014.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Belgian youth asked to skip school for Friday’s climate strike
Young people in Belgium have been called on by the climate movement Youth for Climate to once again skip school and take to the streets during the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Belgium’s health minister not in favour of a general booster shot
The latest figures on new coronavirus cases are worrying, but rather than imposing new safety measures, what is needed is full compliance with ...
Thousands protest against the Covid health pass in France
Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters ...
Record-breaking 770-metre highline installed in Freÿr, Belgium
A 770-metre long highline was installed at an altitude of 70 metres at the Freÿr Rocks on Saturday, setting a new Belgian record, according to ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Five questions to philosopher Philippe Van Parijs on Leopold II and embarrassment in Brussels’ public space
The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, combined with the 60th anniversary of the ...
Unfinished draft of new Astérix story discovered
The discovery of the unfinished draft of a cartoon album on the most famous of all Gauls, sketched by cartoonist René Goscinny, was announced by his ...
Anti-vaxxers demonstrate against Covid Safe Ticket in Brussels
Hundreds of supporters of the anti-vaxx movement gathered on Saturday outside the headquarters of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to protest ...