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Life imprisonment in Belgium

Life imprisonment is legal in Belgium and is the most severe punishment available under Belgian law since the abolishment of the death penalty. Under Belgian law, it can only be imposed for the most serious crimes, such as homicide, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorist crimes, for example. Inmates sentenced to life imprisonment are eligible to apply for parole after serving 15 years (when no previous conviction or below 3 years), 19 years (when previous conviction below 5 years), or 23 years (when previous conviction 5 years or more).[1] If the parole court rejects the parole, the inmate can continuously apply every year.

For minors under age 12, there is never prosecution. For those aged 12 to 17, the juvenile tribunal is in charge. The most severe punishment by the juvenile tribunal is imprisonment until the age of 20. But when aged 16 or 17 and suspected of severe offences, the juvenile court can decide to transfer the case to the correctional tribunal (or the most serious cases to the court of assizes). The most severe punishment by a court of assizes when aged 16 or 17 (when crime is committed) is 30 years' imprisonment (eligible to apply for parole after serving 15 years).[2]


  1. ^ (in French) (in Dutch) extract from the Belgian Official Journal 17 March 2013.
  2. ^ (in Dutch) Jeugdsanctierecht in Europa: is uithandengeving een evidentie? Jura falconis, jg 44, 2007-2008, nr 1, p. 3-38