Country

Belgium

Belgium

Name of law : Law n° 94-1724 of 11 April 1994 on the Publicity of the Administration (Federal level law)
First adopted : 1994
Last modified : 10 March 2010
RTI Rating last updated : 28 September 2011

Section Max ScoreScore
Right of Access 6 2
Scope 30 17
Requesting procedures 30 14
Exceptions 30 15
Appeals 30 11
Sanctions 8 0
Promotional measures 16 0
TOTAL 150 59

Introduction:
Law in French/Dutch: http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/eli/loi/1994/04/11/1994000357/justel

Website of the Information Commission (la Commission (fédérale) d\'accès aux documents administratifs): http://www.ibz.rrn.fgov.be/fr/commissions/publicite-de-ladministration/introduction/
Right of Access

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1 The legal framework (including jurisprudence) recognises a fundamental right of access to information.Score 0 for no constitutional right to information, 1 point for a limited constitutional right, 2 points for full constitutional recognition of a public right of access to information.2 YES Article 32 of the Constitution was amended in 1993 to include a right of access to documents held by the government: \"Everyone has the right to consult any administrative document and to have a copy made, except in the cases and conditions stipulated by the laws, decrees, or rulings referred to in Article 134.\" Constitution of Belgium (English version): http://www.const-court.be/en/common/home.html The Constitution sets out a right of all persons, which includes legal persons, to access administrative documents.
2 The legal framework creates a specific presumption in favour of access to all information held by public authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.No=0, Partially=1, Yes=22 NO No mentioned.
3 3.1 The legal framework contains a specific statement of principles calling for a broad interpretation of the RTI law
3.2 The legal framework emphasises the benefits of the right to information?
3.1(Y/N - max 1 point)
3.2 (Y/N - max 1 point)
2 NO No mentioned




Scope

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4 Everyone (including non-citizens and legal entities) has the right to file requests for information.Score 0 point if only residents/citizens; 1 point for all natural persons; 1 point for legal persons. 2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 4: \"Le droit de consulter un document administratif d\'une autorité administrative fédérale et de recevoir une copie du document consiste en ce que chacun, selon les conditions prévues par la présente loi, peut prendre connaissance sur place de tout document administratif, obtenir des explications à son sujet et en recevoir communication sous forme de copie\" The law says that \"everyone\"(\"chacun\")can consult and have a copy of an administrative document.
5 The right of access applies to all material held by or on behalf of public authorities which is recorded in any format, regardless of who produced it.Score 1-3 points if limited definition of information information such as not "internal documents" or databases excluded, 4 points for all information with no exceptions.4 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 1.b.2: \"Document administratif : toute information, sous quelque forme que ce soit, dont une autorité administrative dispose\". The law defines \"document\" as all information in any format.
6 Requesters have a right to access both information and records/documents (i.e. a right both to ask for information and to apply for specific documents).Score 1 point for only documents, 1 point for information2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 1.b.2 (see above) and • Art. 4. \"Le droit de ... obtenir des explications à son sujet et en recevoir communication sous forme de copie.\" The law mentions the right of access to all informtion in any format. Article 4 also includes a right to receive \"explanations\" which is taken to include information more broadly.
7 The right of access applies to the executive branch with no bodies or classes of information excluded.This includes executive (cabinet) and adminsitration including all ministries, departments, local government, public schools, public health care bodies, the police, the armed forces, security services, and bodies owned or controlled by the above.Score 4 points for central government agencies covered: 1 for the head of state, 1 for ministries, 1 for other non-statutory agencies created by the ministries, 1 for state and local government if the government is unitary. If it´s a federalist system, 2 points for the non-statutory agencies. This can be determined by examining the length and thoroughness of the list, if such a schedule exists. Score 1 point for the archives. Add three points and deduct 1 for each exempted central agency (such as the armed forces, police, etc).8 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 1.b: «Autorité administrative: une autorité administrative visée à l\'article 14 des lois coordonnées sur le Conseil d\'Etat »; Article 1.b establishes that this law applies to federal administrative authorities. Article 11 establishes that this law applies to archives, excluding two of them which are ruled by the law on archives.
8 The right of access applies to the legislature, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all legislative branch at all levels of government4 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 1.b: «Autorité administrative: une autorité administrative visée à l\'article 14 des lois coordonnées sur le Conseil d\'Etat »; The law only applies to administrative bodies, which would include the administrative functions of the legistlature.
9 The right of access applies to the judicial branch, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all judicial branch at all levels of government4 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 1.b: «Autorité administrative: une autorité administrative visée à l\'article 14 des lois coordonnées sur le Conseil d\'Etat »; The law only applies to the administrative functions of the judicial power.
10 The right of access applies to State-owned enterprises (commercial entities that are owned or controlled by the State). Score 1 point if some, 2 points if all2 NO Not mentioned The law does not apply to state owned private bodies.
11 The right of access applies to other public authorities, including constitutional, statutory and oversight bodies (such as an election commission or information commission/er). Score 1 point if some bodies, 2 points if all2 NO CHECK
12 The right of access applies to a) private bodies that perform a public function and b) private bodies that receive significant public funding. 1 point for public functions, 1 point for public funding 2 NO Not mentioned. The law does not apply to private bodies.

Requesting Procedures

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13 Requesters are not required to provide reasons for their requests.Y/N answer 0 or 2 points2 YES ADD ARTICLE 5 Loi n° 94-1724, Article 5: \"...La demande indique clairement la matière concernée, et si possible, les documents administratifs concernés ...\" The law does not require any reasons to be given, only to indicate clearly the topic and, if possible, the documents requested.
14 Requesters are only required to provide the details necessary for identifying and delivering the information (i.e. some form of address for delivery).Score Max 2 points and deduct if requesters are required to give any of the following: ID number, telephone number, residential address, etc.2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 5: \"La consultation d\'un document administratif, les explications y relatives ou sa communication sous forme de copie ont lieu sur demande. La demande indique clairement la matière concernée, et si possible, les documents administratifs concernés, et est adressée par écrit à l\'autorité administrative fédérale compétente, même si celle-ci a déposé le document aux archives.\" Requesters are only required to indicate clearly the topic and, if possible, the documents requested.
15 There are clear and relatively simple procedures for making requests. Requests may be submitted by any means of communication, with no requirement to use official forms or to state that the information is being requested under the access to information law.Max 2 points. Considerations include that there is no requirement to state that the request is under the RTI law, nor to use an official form, nor to identify the document being sought. 2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 5: \"La demande indique clairement la matière concernée et si possible, les documents administratifs concernés, et est adressée par écrit à l\'autorité administrative fédérale compétente, même si celle-ci a déposé le document aux archives\". The simply requires the requrest to indicate what is being sought. No additional limitations or fomalities are imposed.
16 Public officials are required provide assistance to help requesters formulate their requests, or to contact and assist requesters where requests that have been made are vague, unduly broad or otherwise need clarification. Score 1 point for help in formulation and 1 point for clarification procedures2 NO Not mentioned. There is no clearly stated obligation on public officials to assist requesters.
17     Public officials are required to provide assistance to requesters who require it because of special needs, for example because they are illiterate or disabled.Score Yes=2 point, No=02 NO Not mentioned. There are no references in the law to those with special needs.
18 Requesters are provided with a receipt or acknowledgement upon lodging a request within a reasonable timeframe, which should not exceed 5 working daysScore 1 point for receipt, 1 point for max 5 working days2 NO Not mentioned. The law does not require acknowledgements to be provided.
19 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for situations where the authority to which a request is directed does not have the requested information. This includes an obligation to inform the requester that the information is not held and to refer the requester to another institution or to transfer the request where the public authority knows where the information is held.Score: 1 point for information not held, 1 for referrals or 2 for transfers2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 5: \"Lorsque la demande de consultation, d\'explications ou de communication sous forme de copie est adressée à une autorité administrative fédérale qui n\'est pas en possession du document administratif, celle-ci en informe sans délai le demandeur et lui communique la dénomination et l\'adresse de l\'autorité qui, selon les informations dont elle dispose, est détentrice du document\". The law clearly states that when the request is addressed to a body which does not hold the information, it should refer the requester to the correct body.
20 Public authorities are required to comply with requesters’ preferences regarding how they access information, subject only to clear and limited overrides (e.g. to protect a record).Score: 2 points for Yes, only 1 point if some limitations2 NO Not mentioned. The law does not take into account different formats.
21 Public authorities are required to respond to requests as soon as possible.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points 2 NO Not mentioned. The law provides the maximum timeframe only.
22 There are clear and reasonable maximum timelines (20 working days or less) for responding to requests, regardless of the manner of satisfying the request (including through publication).Score: 1 point for timeframes of 20 working days (or 1 month, 30 days or 4 weeks). Score 2 points for 10 working days (or 15 days, or two weeks) or less.2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.5: \"§5. L\'autorité administrative fédérale qui ne p eut pas réserver de suite immédiate à une demande de publicité ou qui la rejette communique dans un délai de trente jours de la réc eption de la demande les motifs de l\'ajournement ou du rejet. <...>\" Article 6.5 establishes that the time frame is 30 calendar days.
23 There are clear limits on timeline extensions (20 working days or less), including a requirement that requesters be notified and provided with the reasons for the extension.---2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.5: \"En cas d\'ajournement, le délai ne pourra jamais être prolongé de plus de quinze jours.\" The law establishes that the maximum extension is 15 calendar days.
24 It is free to file requests.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES Not mentioned There are no fees established for making requests.
25 There are clear rules relating to access fees, which are set centrally, rather than being determined by individual public authorities. These include a requirement that fees be limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information (so that inspection of documents and electronic copies are free) and a certain initial number of pages (at least 20) are provided for free. Score 1 point for fees being limited to reproduction and delivery costs and set centrally, 1 point for at least 20 pages free of charge or for fees being optional2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 3 \"Art. 3 Les rétributions éventuellement réclamées pour la délivrance des informations visées à l\'article 2, 1° et 2°, ne peuvent excéder le prix coûtant.\" Article 12 Art. 12. “La réception d\'une copie d\'un document administratif peut être soumise au paiement d\'une rétribution dont le montant est fixé par le Roi.” \"Arrêté royal du 17 août 2007 fixant le montant de la rétribution due pour la réception d\'une copie d\'un document administratif ou d\'un document qui contient des informations environnementales.\" Article 3 establish that fees can be charged for copies but only the real cost. Article 12 says that the King shall fix the rate for copies. Charging seems to be optional but there is no provision for free copies. There is a Royal Decree setting the tarrifs.
26   There are fee waivers for impecunious requesters ---2 NO Not mentioned. There is no provision for fee waivers in the law.
27 There are no limitations on or charges for reuse of information received from public bodies, except where a third party (which is not a public authority) holds a legally-protected copyright over the information. Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 NO Loi n° 94-1724, Article 10 establishes that \"Administrative documents obtained under this Act may not be broadcast or used for commercial purposes.\" There is a limitation on commercial reuse of information obtained under the right of access to documents. CHECK


Exceptions

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28 The standards in the RTI Law trump restrictions on information disclosure (secrecy provisions) in other legislation to the extent of any conflict.Score 4 points for a resounding "yes" and 1/2/3 points if only for some classes of information or for some exceptions. If the state secrets law is not trumped by the RTI law max score is 2 points. 4 NO Not mentioned.
29 The exceptions to the right of access are consistent with international standards. Permissible exceptions are: national security; international relations; public health and safety; the prevention, investigation and prosecution of legal wrongs; privacy; legitimate commercial and other economic interests; management of the economy; fair administration of justice and legal advice privilege; conservation of the environment; and legitimate policy making and other operations of public authorities. It is also permissible to refer requesters to information which is already publicly available, for example online or in published form.Score 10 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which either (a) falls outside of this list and/or (b) is more broadly framed10 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6 states the limits to the right of access to information The law includes excemptions that are not in line with international standards: - people\'s freedom and fundamental rights - secrets established by law
30 A harm test applies to all exceptions, so that it is only where disclosure poses a risk of actual harm to a protected interest that it may be refused. Score 4 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which is not subject to the harm test 4 NO Loi n° 94-1724. Article 6: \"The federal or non federal administrative authority will deny the request for information […] if the public interest of the publication of the information is not bigger that the protection of the following interests\"
31 There is a mandatory public interest override so that information must be disclosed where this is in the overall public interest, even if this may harm a protected interest. There are ‘hard’ overrides (which apply absolutely), for example for information about human rights, corruption or crimes against humanity.Consider whether the override is subject to overarching limitations, whether it applies to only some exceptions, and whether it is mandatory.4 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6: \"The federal or non federal administrative authority will deny the request for information […] if the public interest of the publication of the information is not bigger that the protection of the following interests\".
32 Information must be released as soon as an exception ceases to apply (for example, for after a contract tender process decision has been taken). The law contains a clause stating that exceptions to protect public interests do not apply to information which is over 20 years old.Score 1 point for each2 NO Not mentioned.
33 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for consulting with third parties who provided information which is the subject of a request on a confidential basis. Public authorities shall take into account any objections by third parties when considering requests for information, but third parties do not have veto power over the release of information.Score: 1 point for consultation, 1 further point if original time frames must be respected and the law allows for expedited appeals.2 NO Not mentioned.
34 There is a severability clause so that where only part of a record is covered by an exception the remainder must be disclosed. Score 1 point if yes but sometimes can be refused (eg: if deletions render meaningless the document) and 2 points if partial access must always be granted2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.4: \"Lorsque, en application des §§ ler à 3, un document administratif ne doit ou ne peut être soustrait que partiellement à la publicité, la consultation, l\'explication ou la communication sous forme de copie est limitée à la partie restante\"
35 When refusing to provide access to information, public authorities must a) state the exact legal grounds and reason(s) for the refusal and b) inform the applicant of the relevant appeals procedures.Score Y/N: 1 point for a and 1 point for b2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.5: \"L\'autorité administrative fédérale qui ne peut pas réserver de suite immédiate à une demande de publicité ou qui la rejette communique dans un délai de trente jours de la réception de la demande les motifs de l\'ajournement ou du rejet. En cas d\'ajournement, le délai ne pourra jamais être prolongé de plus de quinze jours. En cas d\'absence de communication dans le délai prescrit, la demande est réputée avoir été rejetée.\" Have to give the reasons but do not have to inform the requester of the relevant appeals procedures.


Appeals

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36 The law offers an internal appeal which is simple, free of charge and completed within clear timelines (20 working days or less).Score 2 points if the internal appeal fulfills these criteria, 1 point if an appeal is offered that does not fulfill this criteria, 0 for no internal appeals.2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 8.2: \"Lorsque le demandeur rencontre des difficul tés pour obtenir la consultation ou la correction d\'un document adminis tratif en vertu de la présente loi, (y compris en cas de décision expl icite de rejet visée à l\'article 6, § 5, alinéa 3,) il peut adresser à l\' autorité administrative fédérale concernée une demande de reconsidération. Au même moment, il demande à la Commission d\'émettre un avi s. <...> L\'autorité administrative fédérale communique sa décision d\'approbation ou de refus de la demande de reconsid ération au demandeur (et à la Commission) dans un délai de quinze jours de la réception de l\'avis ou de l\'écoulement du délai dan s lequel l\'avis devait être communiqué. En cas d\'absence de communi cation dans le délai prescrit, l\'autorité est réputée avoir rejeté la demande.\" The article establishes the possibility of asking the authority that refused the information to reconsider it\'s action. They have 15 days to answer. If they don\'t answer, the administrative silence is negative.
37 Requesters have the right to lodge an (external) appeal with an independent administrative oversight body (e.g. an information commission or ombudsman). 1 for partial, 2 for yes2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724. Article 8.2 establishes the possibility of asking a commission for an opinion on the case but it\'s opinion is not binding.
38 The member(s) of the oversight body are appointed in a manner that is protected against political interference and have security of tenure so they are protected against arbitrary dismissal (procedurally/substantively) once appointed.Score: 1 point for appointment procedure, 1 point for security of tenure2 NO Loi n° 94-1724. Article 8.1 establishes that the King with the agreement of the Council of Ministers will decide the composition and the functioning of the Commission.
39 The oversight body reports to and has its budget approved by the parliament, or other effective mechanisms are in place to protect its financial independence.Score 1 point for reports to parliament, 1 point for budget approved by parliament2 NO Not mentioned.
40 There are prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections from being appointed to this body and requirements of professional expertise.Score 1 point for not politically connected, 1 point for professional expertise2 NO Not mentioned.
41 The independent oversight body has the necessary mandate and power to perform its functions, including to review classified documents and inspect the premises of public bodies.Score 1 point for reviewing classified documents, 1 point for inspection powers2 NO Not mentioned.
42 The decisions of the independent oversight body are binding. Score N=0, Y=2 points2 NO The 8.2 article establishes the possibility of asking a commission for an opinion on the case but it\'s opinion is not binding.
43 In deciding an appeal, the independent oversight body has the power to order appropriate remedies for the requester, including the declassification of information. 1 for partial, 2 for fully2 NO Not mentioned.
44 Requesters have the right to lodge a judicial appeal.1 for partially, 2 for fully.2 YES Loi n° 94-1724, An appeal can be lodge to the Conseil d\'État
45 Appeals to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are free of charge and do not require legal assistance.1 for free, 1 for no lawyer required. 2 NO Not mentioned.
46 The grounds for appeal to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are broad (including not only refusals to provide information but also refusals to provide information in the form requested, administrative silence and other breach of timelines, charging excessive fees, etc.).Score 1 point for appealing refusals, additional points for appealing other violations.4 YES Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.2 establishes the right to appeal in cases of refusal, incomplete or wrong answer or silence\".
47 Clear procedures, including timelines, are in place for dealing with external appeals (oversight/judicial).Score 1 point for clear procedures, 1 point for timelines. 2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 6.2 establishes that the Commission has to answer in 30 days, on case of silence the answer is refusal.
48 In the appeal process (oversight/judicial/) the government bears the burden of demonstrating that it did not operate in breach of the rules.Score Y/N and award 2 points for yes. 2 NO Loi n° 94-1724, The law does not mention this obligation and the law recognises the possibility of a negative silence.
49 The external appellate body has the power to impose appropriate structural measures on the public authority (e.g. to conduct more training or to engage in better record management)1 for partial, 2 for fully. 2 Partially Loi n° 94-1724, Article 8.4 establishes that the Commission may propose measures to the legislative power to improve the law or it\'s implementation.


Sanctions & Proteccions

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50 Sanctions may be imposed on those who wilfully act to undermine the right to information, including through the unauthorised destruction of information.Score 1 point for sanctions for underming right, 1 point for destruction of documents 2 NO Not mentioned.
51 There is a system for redressing the problem of public authorities which systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions on them or requiring remedial actions of them).Score 1 point for either remedial action or sanctions, 2 points for both 2 NO Not mentioned.
52 The independent oversight body and its staff are granted legal immunity for acts undertaken in good faith in the exercise or performance of any power, duty or function under the RTI Law. Others are granted similar immunity for the good faith release of information pursuant to the RTI Law.Score 1 for oversight body, 1 for immunity for others2 NO Not mentioned.
53 There are legal protections against imposing sanctions on those who, in good faith, release information which discloses wrongdoing (i.e. whistleblowers).Score 2 for strong protections, 1 for moderate protections2 NO Not mentioned.


Promotional measures

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54 Public authorities are required to appoint dedicated officials (information officers) or units with a responsibility for ensuring that they comply with their information disclosure obligations.Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
55 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, is given overall responsibility for promoting the right to information. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
56 Public awareness-raising efforts (e.g. producing a guide for the public or introducing RTI awareness into schools) are required to be undertaken by law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
57 A system is in place whereby minimum standards regarding the management of records are set and applied. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
58 Public authorities are required to create and update lists or registers of the documents in their possession, and to make these public. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
59 Training programs for officials are required Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
60 Public authorities are required to report annually on the actions they have taken to implement their disclosure obligations. This includes statistics on requests received and how they were dealt with. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
61 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, has an obligation to present a consolidated report to the legislature on implementation of the law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.