Any citizen can, depending on the problem, file a complaint with the Standing Committee I against potential violations of his rights or report certain dysfunctions with regard to:
- State Security
- the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Armed Forces
- the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment and its supporting services acting in this capacity
- a security authority or security officer in the sense of the Classification Act. [pdf]
The Standing Committee I can be referred to in its capacity of
- 1. Parliamentary review body that oversees the functining of the intelligence services, CUTA and its support services;
- 2. Judicial body for special intelligence methods;
- 3. Prejudicial adviser for a criminal jurisdiction;
- 4. Competent Supervisory Authority for the processing of personal data.
1. Parliamentary review body that oversees the functioning of the intelligence services, CUTA and its support services
The Standing Committee I deals with complaints and denunciations about the functioning, actions, conduct or failure to act of the two Belgian intelligence services (State Security and the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Armed Forces), the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment and the other support services and their personnel.
For the intelligence services and the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment, the complaint can relate to the legitimacy, effectiveness or coordination of all aspects of their running.
For the supporting services, the complaint can only relate to the legitimacy, effectiveness or coordination of the transmission of information on terrorism and extremism to the the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment.
Anybody who is or has been directly affected by the action of an intelligence service, the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment or a support service can lodge a complaint or file a denunciation to the Standing Committee I or its Investigation Service.
Moreover, any civil servant or any person who holds a public office and any member of the armed forces who is directly affected by the directives, decisions or rules of application thereof, as well as by procedures or actions, can lodge a complaint or file a denunciation without having his/her supervisor or hierarchical superiors’ permission.
Anonymity can be guaranteed. In such a case, his/her identity may only be divulged within the Investigation Service and the Standing Committee I.
A complaint can be lodged or a denunciation can be filed verbally or in writing.
Verbal complaints (preferably, but not necessarily, after making an appointment) can be lodged in the offices of the Standing Committee I. A member of the Investigation Service will take note of the complaint or denunciation.
Written complaints can be lodged by e-mail, fax or letter. The enclosed form can be used for this purpose (to be printed).
The Standing Committee I will subject the complaint to an initial examination to determine whether or not it is within its sphere of competence.
If the Standing Committee I declares the complaint admissible, an investigation is started. When the investigation is closed, the person concerned will be informed of the results in general terms. Depending on the case the conclusions of the investigation are notified to the manager of the intelligence service, the director of the Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment, or the manager of the supporting service. They are also sent to the competent minister(s) and Parliament, and then be made public. In the first instance, they are intended to improve the operation of the reviewed services by changing the rules or practice. The Standing Committee I cannot award compensation, give orders to the services, or mediate in disputes.
If the complaint is manifestly unfounded, the Standing Committee I can decide not to investigate. Such a decision must be justified and the person concerned will be informed thereof in writing. If applicable, the Standing Committee I can refer him/her to the body or service that may indeed have jurisdiction over his/her complaint.
Any person who can prove a personal and legitimate interest can lodge a complaint with the Standing Committee I, which, in its capacity as a judicial body, performs a control of the legality of the specific and exceptional methods. The complainant must lodge his/her complaint in writing and specify his/her grievances.
Unless the complaint is manifestly unfounded, the Standing Committee I will examine the file and make a decision within one month. During the processing of a complaint, the complainant and his/her lawyer may consult the file at the Standing Committee I's Secretariat for a period of five working days. The file accessible to the complainant and his/her lawyer – i.e. the file expurgated of information which is classified and sensitive for State security – makes it possible, at the least, to determine the legal context which formed the basis for the use of a specific or exceptional intelligence collection method, the nature of the threat and its degree of severity which justified the use of the specific method and finally, the type of personal data collected when the method was implemented, as long as these data only concern the complainant.
The Standing Committee I has extensive competences. It can hear the members of the administrative Commission, the head of the intelligence service concerned, and the members of the intelligence and security services who implemented the specific methods. At their request, the complainant and his/her lawyer can be heard by the Standing Committee I.
If the Standing Committee I notes that the decisions regarding special methods are illegal, it orders the cessation of the method concerned and prohibits the use of the data collected using this method and orders their destruction.
If a case record contains data collected by an intelligence service via a specific or exceptional method, and if this information is contained in a non-classified report, the citizen concerned may ask the Council Chamber or the court dealing with the substance of the case to request the advice of the Standing Committee I on the legality of the way in which the information was collected by the intelligence services.
In principle, the request must be formulated at the beginning of the investigation of the case. The decision to ask the advice of the Standing Committee I is the sole responsibility of the judge. The Committee only issues advice on the legality of the methods used.
The Committee is responsible for controlling subsequent processing of personal data:
- processing by State Security and the General Intelligence and Security Service;
- processing in the context of security clearances, certificates and advice as for example by the National Security Authority or a security officer of a public administration or a private company;
- processing by CUTA (this task is performed together with the Standing Committee P);
- processing by the Passenger Information Unit (PIU) that forms part of an intelligence finality;
- processing by the SIM Commission.
Two other authorities are competent for other processing of personal data:
- the Data Protection Authority, which is the successor to the Privacy Commission and which has general and residual authority; and
- the Supervisory Body for Police Information Management (COC), which for example controls the processing of police services.
The Standing Committee I can act at the request of a citizen who believes that one of the services mentioned above has not complied with data protection data protection rules.
The applicant has the right to request that his or her incorrect personal data be corrected or deleted and that the applicable data protection data protection rules are complied with.
To be admissible, the request must be written, dated, signed and supported by reasons.
If the request is manifestly unfounded, the Committee may decide not to comply with the request. This decision must be substantiated and notified to the applicant in writing.
These verifications are free of charge.
The Committee can also use all the powers that it may use in the context of its traditional supervisory task. In addition, the Committee may cooperate with the other Belgian supervisory authorities.
Following its investigation, the Committee may, for example, decide that the service in question must correct or delete certain personal data. However, the Committee may only reply to the applicant that "the necessary verifications have been made". The Committee is not even allowed to state whether or not the service in question stored personal data about the applicant.