Last week, the Belgian Constitutional Court ruled that the lèse-majesté law, which penalized insults to the crown, was unconstitutional. According to the high court, the 1847 law, which allows for up to three-year sentences for insulting the royal family, violates the right to freedom of expression as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Article 19 of the Constitution prohibits freedom of expression from being subject to preventive restrictions,” says the Belgian Constitutional ruling, which adds: “By sanctioning words publicly expressed against the person of the king, article 1 of the law of April 6, 1847, constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of expression.” This ruling was in response to a question presented by the court of Ghent that must resolve the extradition case of the exiled rapper Valtònyc.
The rapper was sentenced in Spain to three and a half years’ prison for, amongst other things, insults to the crown in the lyrics of his songs. He decided to go to exile and appeal to the Belgian judiciary, which has now ruled that insults against the king are protected by freedom of expression.
Valtònyc celebrated the ruling in a Tweet in which he said his case had served the “collective good.” We have won and Belgium has removed the lèse-majesté from the criminal code. “I have always been clear that I wanted to put my case in the hands of those protecting fundamental rights for all. I did not lower my head and you have never left me alone. Thank you.”
“Victory. The constitutional court abolishes the criminal law on lèse-majesté, by declaring it contrary to freedom of expression. A historic step for our internal Belgian legal order, and good news for the Valtònyc extradition case,” said Simon Bekaert, Valtònyc’s lawyer.
The extradition of the rapper, which will be decided on November 23rd, at the Ghent Court of Appeal, thus becomes very unlikely.