The information referring to Belgian law was obtained primarily from the Belgian Government by the American Embassy in Brussels.
Belgium and the United States are signatory to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters.
Under the terms of the Convention personal service may be obtained by sending a completed Request and Summary, with the documents to be served, directly to the Belgian Central Authority. The address of the Belgian Central Authority is:
The Ministry of Justice
Administration de la Legislation
Boulevard de Waterloo 115
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Alternatively, the documents may also be sent to:
Chambre Nationale des Huissiers de Justice/Nationale Kamer der Gerechtsdeurwaarders
avenue Henri Jasparlaan 93
Telephone 001 32 2 538 00 92
Fax 001 32 2 539 41 11
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The latter method, circumventing the Central Authority, eliminates a step and is somewhat quicker. The national office of “huissiers” (process servers) will forward the documents to be served to the appropriate “huissier”, who will return his bill for services rendered to the requestor through his national office.
Although Belgium does not specifically require that the Request, Summons and documents be translated into Dutch or French, in Belgium the recipient may successfully insist upon such a translation. Prudence therefore, dictates that the documents to be served be translated into the language of the recipient.
The aforementioned Convention does not apply to criminal cases. Nevertheless, private persons may send documents to be served under a cover letter or request to the “Chambre Nationale des Huissiers,” as described in sub-section (a) above.
However, government attorneys, state or federal, may not utilize this method. Rather they must forward requests for personal service through diplomatic channels under a letter rogatory. For an explanation of this process and a form, see 4 Moore”s Federal Practice 28.05 or a flier regarding the preparation of letters rogatory for use in Belgium may be obtained from:
Office of American Citizens Services
European Division Room 4811 M.S.
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520-4818
The letter rogatory process can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete. In cases involving the service of a federal criminal subpoena upon a United States citizen or Legal Permanent Resident alien a United States Foreign Service Officer may effect service. Any such request must be forwarded to the European Division of the Office of American Citizens Services (address above) (See Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 92.86).
Belgium Process Service
Again, only a private individual may utilize the expeditious procedure by sending requests for personal service to the “Chambre nationale des Huissiers”. Administrative tribunals and all types of government attorneys must utilize the letter rogatory procedure described previously.
Summing up obtention of personal service in Belgium, in order to transmit documents for personal service directly to the “Chambre nationale des Huissiers”, the requesting authority should be described, when possible, as a private person. The “Chambre Nationale” simply will not honor requests coming to it directly from American courts, administrative tribunals or government attorneys. In cases where the request for personal service emanates from one of these three categories, an alternative procedure for obtaining service must be used, such as submission to the Central Authority in civil cases and the letter rogatory procedure in administrative and criminal cases.
Service By Mail
Belgium has no objection to service of process by mail in administrative, civil or criminal cases. Information regarding registered mail into Belgium from the United States may be obtained from any U.S. Post Office.
TAKING OF EVIDENCE
Belgium is NOT a party to the Hague Evidence Convention.
Belgium does not distinguish between civil and criminal cases with regard to obtention of evidence there by foreign persons. Nor does it make distinctions based upon the nationality of the deponent. Rather, Belgium distinguishes between those cases which are “purely private” and those which are not.
This means that foreign private persons or attorneys may depose witnesses in Belgium or obtain documentary evidence there pursuant to American deposition procedures, such as deposition on notice, as long as the witnesses testify voluntarily.
However, if any type of American government official or agent of an American court or administrative tribunal were to participate in a deposition, only a Belgian court could conduct the deposition. This is likewise true when any form of compulsion would be necessary. In this regard, a Belgian court could compel the appearance of a person but not his testimony “per se” not the production of documents by him “per se”. When the assistance of a Belgian court is need, the letter rogatory procedure should be utilized. Belgium has warned the non-Belgian Government attorneys must seek clearance from the Belgian Government before engaging in formal or informal questioning in Belgium. Clearance for such action must be obtained through the Department of State, Office of American Citizens Services.
One problem with deposing a witness in Belgium is the scarcity of stenographers. This problem is so severe that utilization of a British stenographer or a stenographer from another country should be seriously considered.
Belgium, like the United States is party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (TIAS 10072; 133 UST Part 1). As a consequence, any certification of Belgian notarials on affidavits or of evidence obtained by Belgian courts must be provided by the appropriate Belgian authority which is:
Ministere des Affaires etrangeres, du Commerce exterieur, et de la Cooperation au Developpment (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Cooperation in Development)
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS
There is no treaty, convention or other international agreement in force between Belgium and the United States regarding the enforcement of judgments. Expedited enforcement of U.S. judgments, therefore, not available and each case must be tried in Belgium on its merits.
AMERICAN POSTS IN BELGIUM
The American Embassy
27 Boulevard du Regent B-1000
Belgium Process Service