Criminal law. – The general principles that inspire the Belgian penal code of 9 June 1867 are common to most European states; rather, it is better to insist on the modifications that were brought about by applying the most recent criminological doctrines. The offenses, distinguished according to the severity of the penalties into crimes, offenses and fines, suppose together a material element and a psychic element.
This system, based on the classical theory of free will, is now completed by two important laws: that of August 15, 1912 on the protection of children which, regardless of the question of discernment, applies corrective and preventive measures to offenders under 16 years of age, from the simple admonition to internment in special establishments, and that of social defense (April 9, 1930) which, while freeing offenders suffering from mental imbalance, ensures their internment in a prison suitable for their state. The theory of the individualization of penalties finds considerable application in the law of 23 August 1919, which leaves the judge great breadth in the appreciation of aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
The death penalty, always preserved in the code, is practically abolished by the constant use of sovereign grace, and commuted to forced labor for life. The penalties depriving of personal liberty all involve, in principle, the cellular regime; but today it is greatly attenuated by the placement of certain inmates both in special schools or sanatoriums, and in shared laboratories. Recent laws have developed the conditional sentence system, which allows the judge to postpone the execution of sentences not exceeding six months in favor of persons previously uncensored.
Criminal procedure. – The French code of criminal procedure of 1808 remained in force, but underwent quite numerous modifications, p. e.g., with the laws of 17 April 1878 on crimes and offenses committed abroad by Belgian citizens and also by foreigners (crimes against state security, crimes and offenses against public faith), 18 June 1894 on requests for review, 25 April 1896 on the rehabilitation of condemned, March 14, 1874 on extradition (excluding, however, political crimes and related facts). For Belgium 2012, please check oxfordastronomy.com.
Commercial law. – The old French code of 1807 has been progressively replaced by a series of special laws.
Book I, dedicated to commerce in general, deals with the profession of merchant and lists the acts considered to be commercial. The transport contract is the subject of a special title: those who carry out rail transport enjoy a preferential regime that mitigates their liability, both for the exclusion of risks associated with special goods (live animals, etc.), and for the limitation of damages to be refunded (eg, at the current commercial price at the time of shipment). The regime of commercial companies, whose last overall reform was in 1913, deserves special consideration. Commercial companies have legal personality and can be classified into the following types: general partnership, with unlimited joint and several liability of all partners; anonymous companies, with limited liability, subjected to rigorous forms of publicity (the directors are jointly and severally liable towards the shareholders and towards third parties for infringements of the company statutes or the law); limited liability partnership (law 9 July 1935) or family company whose shares cannot be transferred to third parties except under certain conditions; cooperative companies, with unlimited liability, unless otherwise provided by the statutes, and in which the shares have the special feature of non-transferability; limited partnerships, which unite two groups of partners, one with unlimited liability and jointly and severally, the other with limited liability. As for the insurance contract, governed by the law of 11 June 1874, the companies that engage in this type of operation enjoy autonomy, with the sole exception of life insurance, subject to state control (law of 25 June 1930), and of those against accidents at work, subject to the payment of a deposit. Book II of the cod. comm. contains the provisions on maritime and inland navigation. Only maritime vessels possess a nationality. Founded on the law of 21 August 1879, Belgian maritime law has been extensively modified in recent years to harmonize it with the recent international conventions for the unification of maritime law. As for bankruptcy (book III of the commercial code), the Belgian system allows the bona fide trader to avoid the declaration of bankruptcy, either through the arrangement with creditors or, if the assets are sufficient,
Air law. – Belgian legislation in this matter is still underdeveloped: it consists mainly of the law of August 16, 1922 approving the international convention of Paris (October 13, 1919) and the royal decree of May 30, 1931 on the registration of aircraft. Belgian law, unlike Italian law, does not know about the mortgage on aircraft.
International law. – The Treaty of London of April 19, 1839, while sanctioning the independence of Belgium, had imposed on it a regime of perpetual neutrality guaranteed by the great powers. Germany’s violation of this neutrality in 1914 led the signatory powers to the Treaty of Versailles to recognize the need to abolish this regime. Although the accession of Holland has not yet been obtained, the “Rhine pact” signed in Locarno in October 1925 (see locarno, XXI, p. 347 ff.) Noted the definitive repeal of the Treaty of London. Belgium therefore regained full exercise of its sovereignty. However, the same treaty imposed on Belgium participation in the international guarantee under which it had placed the inviolability of the Rhenish border. Following the demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine by Germany, Belgium has expressed its will to be free from these guarantee obligations (see App., P. 254).
Belgium is a founding member of the League of Nations and is also one of the signatory powers of the so-called Kellogg Pact of 1928.