Parliamentary committees of inquiry
By virtue of article 56 of the Constitution and the law of 3
May 1880, the Chamber of representatives and the Senate may establish
committees of inquiry.
A representative or senator is entitled to request that an inquiry be
This request is handled in the same manner as a bill. After the debate
in committee, the request goes to the plenary meeting for discussion and
voting. If the request is approved, the house of Parliament in which the
request was made must appoint the committee of inquiry, upon which the
investigation can proceed.
According to the law of 3 May 1880, the inquiry may be held by the
Chamber or the Senate in their entirety or by a special committee. In practice,
it is always a special committee which conducts the inquiry.
The committee of inquiry and its chairperson hold the same competencies
as an examining magistrate. They may, amongst other things, call on and hear
witnesses and experts. An inquiry may take anywhere from 1 month (e.g. Heizel
drama), to 2 years (e.g. advertising on television).
Upon conclusion of the inquiry, the rapporteur designated by the
committee gives an account of the inquiry to the plenary session. The plenary
considers the report and makes a statement about the possible conclusions,
recommendations or resolutions of the committee of inquiry. This may lead to a
A great number of committees of inquiry were set up after 1950. In
recent years, however, there has been some tension between the Parliament and
the judiciary when both were investigating the same matters (e.g. the
List of the committees of inquiry established by the Senate since 1880
- Parliamentary committee investigating the legal and illegal
exploitation and trade of natural resources in the Great Lakes region in view
of the current conflict situation and Belgium's involvement.
- Committee of inquiry in charge of the investigation of the events in
- Committee of inquiry in charge of the investigation of the organized
crime in Belgium.
- Committee of inquiry in charge of the investigation of the recent
unveiling of the existence of a clandestine international intelligence network,
known as "Gladio".
- Committee of inquiry in charge of the investigation and the
evaluation of the regulations concerning nuclear safety, the measures to inform
and protect the population and the evacuation procedures in the event of
elevated radioactivity on the Belgian territory. (First requested in
- Parliamentary committee of inquiry in charge of the investigation of
the circumstances in which Belgium would, directly or indirectly, be implicated
in the arms trade and transportation of weapons and ammunition to countries
against which an embargo has been imposed by the Government.
- Parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the problems with
the maintenance of public order in general and the observance and the
enforcement in particular of the law of 29 July 1934, which outlaws private
militias and, in addition, the law of 3 January 1933 on the manufacturing, the
trade and carrying of weapons and ammunition.
- Parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the activity of the
Department of Sequestering.