In the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters with the members states of the European Union (and the Schengen Group member states), Belgium has opted for a decentralised system.
The general rule is that foreign EU authorities who are seeking to submit a request for international legal assistance or a decision or judgment for mutual recognition to Belgium, have to transfer their request/decision/judgment to the public prosecutor’s office that is territorially competent. Territorial competence is determined in consideration of either the place of residence of the suspect, or the location where it is believed he may be found or, if the request relates to goods, in consideration of the location where it is believed the goods may be kept.
Moreover, foreign EU authorities can also submit their request/decision/judgment to the federal prosecutor’s office, as one of its duties is to ensure the facilitation of international cooperation.
The central authority for legal assistance judicial cooperation in criminal matters of the Federal Public service for Justice (Ministry of Justice) is competent in the relations with the EU member states for handling specific requests such as:
- to give prior consent, where applicable, to the forwarding of judgments and certificates;
- providing guarantees as to the return to the country filing the petition of convicted offenders following a court ruling under a European arrest warrant;
- collecting and centralising copies of all requests for legal assistance sent out by or received by the Belgian judicial authorities;
- in the event of concurrence between a European arrest warrant and a request for extradition;
- in sensitive cases of assistance and European arrest warrants;
- Authorising the transit of prisoners in the framework of the execution of the European arrest warrant.
Requests for legal assistance will be executed in conformity with the Belgian legislation and with the international instruments to which the requested Member States and Belgium are parties. Belgian authorities will however comply with requested formalities on the conditions that international instruments foresee this possibility and that the requirements are not contrary to fundamental principles of law or any other principle of Belgian law.