Do we have the right to offend the person of the King? The answer is yes. The Constitutional Court has just decided the question.
Article 1 of the law of April 6, 1847, “on the repression of offenses against the King”, provides that “whoever […] will be guilty of insulting the person of the King, will be punished by imprisonment of six months to three years, and a fine of 300 to 3000 fr ”. In everyday language, we speak of the crime of lèse majesté.
The Constitutional Court issued an opinion on Thursday in which it considers that this provision violates freedom of expression.
“This provision punishes offenses against the King with a particularly heavy prison sentence (six months to three years in prison), which is in principle contrary to freedom of expression when the sentence is imposed because of opinions expressed within the framework of a political debate or a debate on matters of general interest ”, explains the Court in a press release. “In addition, this provision protects the reputation of the King more broadly than that of other people. According to the Court, the provision does not meet a pressing social need and it is disproportionate to the objective of protecting the reputation of the person of the King. ”
The judgment was delivered this Thursday in the context of a preliminary question asked by the indictments chamber of the Ghent Court of Appeal, responsible for ruling on the extradition of Catalan rapper Valtònyc.
The betting house must rule on the execution of a European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish courts against the rapper who was convicted in Spain for “contempt and serious offenses against the Spanish Crown”. The chamber noted that offenses against the King are also punishable in Belgium, which makes it possible a priori to execute the arrest warrant. That said, the chamber first wanted to know whether the 1847 law is compatible with freedom of expression. We now know the response of the Belgian Constitutional Court.