Record of the preparatory meeting organised on 16th May 2022 at the initiative of the Brussels Court of Appeal for the attention of the lawyers
The meeting was chaired by Ms Laurence MASSART, First President of the Court of Appeal.
She started by explaining that three teams had been set up within the Court of Appeal.
The magistrates who will hold session in the Court of Assizes are the members of the first team.
President of the Court of Assizes will be Ms MASSART.
The substitute president will be Ms Sophie DEMARS.
The assessors will be Mr Marc VANWELKENHUYSEN and Mr Thibault de SAUVAGE.
The substitute assessors are yet to be appointed by the president of the French-speaking Brussels court of first instance.
(note of the translator: the Court of Assizes comprises three magistrates: the president, appointed by the first president of the Court of Appeal and 2 magistrates, appointed by the president of the Court of First Instance, called assessors).
The second team within the Court of Appeal is responsible for communication and the organisation of the trial.
It is chaired by Ms Anne LECLERCQ and composed of Mr Luc HENNART and Ms Sophie VAN BREE.
The third team is composed of 5 or 6 clerks of the court and led by Ms Frédérique SIMONS.
As for the Federal Prosecutor's Office, two representatives will follow the trial: Mr Bernard MICHEL and Ms SOMMERS. They will be supported by other members of the Federal Prosecutor's Office.
It has already been confirmed that the trial will be held at the JUSTITIA Palace in Haren, in the Popelin room.
The preliminary hearing will take place on 12th September 2022 at 9 a.m.
During this session, the list of witnesses will be determined.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office will have to submit the list of witnesses it wishes to hear at least 10 days before the hearing on 12th September.
Lawyers will be able to complete the list of witnesses at least 5 days before the hearing.
If victims wish to be heard during the trial, they can be either as civil parties (provided they communicated their intervention as a civil party) or as witnesses.
In fact, it is preferable for them to intervene as civil parties, because if they are heard as witnesses, they can only be present at the trial after they testified.
At the end of the hearing on 12th September, a preliminary ruling will be issued, containing the names of the witnesses to be heard, although the President of the Court may decide to hear additional witnesses during the course of the trial, if she judges their testimonies necessary.
The exact dates and times of the witness’s hearings will be specified at a later date.
The President's intention is not to summons all the witnesses in September, but to have a summons served upon them as the trial progresses.
A second hearing will be held on 10th October 2022 at 9 a.m. for the composition of the jury.
Up until now, the 600 candidate-members of the jury have already been selected by lot.
On the 10th October, it will probably take all day to compose the jury.
The first actual hearing is scheduled on 13th October 2022 at 9 a.m.
Also on Friday 14th October at 9 a.m. a hearing is scheduled.
From 17th October 2022 onwards, hearings are scheduled from Monday to Thursday, in principle from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday will be a free day, unless the trial risks to be delayed.
As far as the school holidays are concerned, the hearings are planned to be suspended from 31st October to 6th November 2022 (autumn break), as well as from 26th December 2022 to 2nd January 2023 inclusive (Christmas holidays).
The hearings will continue on 3rd January 2023 and exceptionally there will be a hearing on Friday 6th January 2023.
As far as the spring break is concerned, the hearings will be suspended from 20th February until 26th February.
Special hearings will be scheduled for the identification of the civil parties, as well as to record any new civil party interventions.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office is currently drafting its indictment (expected to be more than 400 pages long), which we expect to receive in the course of June. Important to note is that the indictment is to be served upon the defendants at least 20 days before the start of the trial.
The hearings will be held in the Popelin room of the JUSTITIA building.
This room has a capacity of 170 persons.
Access to this room will be restricted to the defendants and their lawyers, 30 lawyers for the civil parties, and a few hundred civil parties in person.
In addition to the Popelin room, there will be 'relay' rooms with image and sound interaction with the main courtroom.
A press room is also provided in the JUSTITIA building.
The clerk of the Court of Assizes’ office will be relocated to the JUSTITIA building for the duration of the trial.
A visit to the premises should be organised as soon as possible with the FPS Justice, the "organisation" team of the Court of Appeal and the Bar Association in order to try to optimise the rooms as much as possible (at present, it seems that the rooms are not equipped with sockets, which makes it impossible to recharge computers and mobile phones, etc.).
The criminal file is currently available at the at the clerk of the Court’s office, which will download it onto a new USB keys of at least 32 mb.
This is the criminal file as it stood at the time of the proceedings before the Court’s Indictment Division.
Additional documents to be included in the criminal file can be obtained at a later stage.
One lawyer expressed the wish that the criminal file be placed in a cloud, as was done during the Paris trial, so that the lawyers could easily take note of new elements added to the criminal file during the trial.
The President indicated that a possible initiative in this sense would have to come from the Bar Association (the Paris Trial Cloud was created by the Paris Bar Association).