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World Organisation Against Torture v. Belgium

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Court/Judicial body: European Committee of Social Rights

Citation: No. 21/2003
Date: 7 December 2004
Instrument(s) cited: European Social Charter 

Case summary

The complaint, lodged on 23 September 2003, relates to  Article 17 (the right of mothers and children to social and economic protection) of the European Social Charter. It was alleged that Belgium had not effectively prohibited all corporal punishment of children, nor had it prohibited any other form of degrading punishment or treatment of children and provided adequate sanctions in penal or civil law The OMCT requested that the Committee rule that Belgium failed to comply with Article 17 of the European Social Charter because Belgian law did not explicitly prohibit parents and “other persons” from inflicting corporal punishment on their children and offered children no effective protection against corporal punishment in the family. The OMCT maintained that none of the provisions of the Civil Code (parent-child relations and parental authority), the Criminal Code (aggravated sentences for violence against children and aggravated circumstances if the victim is a minor or the perpetrator exercises authority over the victim), or the Constitution (child’s right to integrity) were concerned with corporal punishment as such and had not been interpreted as prohibiting parents and other persons from inflicting any form of corporal punishment on their children. The OMCT stated that the new Article 22bis of the Constitution was seen as being more concerned with children’s right to protection against extreme violence and sexual abuse and exploitation, rather than other forms of socially accepted violence. The OMCT stated that it was generally acknowledged by Belgian society less serious forms of corporal punishment were legitimate and lawful means of disciplining children.  On 26 January 2005, the Committee concluded by 11 votes to 2 that there was a violation of Article 17 of the Charter.  The Committee of Ministers adopted Resolution ResChS(2005)10 on 8 June 2005.

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