Digital Law Up(to)date: From 'confidentiality of letters' to 'confidentiality of private communications'?

BE Law

The Belgian Parliament published a proposal to amend article 29 of the Belgian Constitution (see here). The provision now states that the “confidentiality of letters is inviolable”. If the proposal is adopted, article 29 should read as follows: “The confidentiality of private communications is inviolable, except in the cases and conditions established by law”.

Firstly, the new article 29 removes any doubts as to its absolute character. Like most other fundamental rights, restrictions to this inviolability may be allowed.

Secondly, the change in words used in not merely cosmetic. The objective is to clearly extend the scope of article 29 to all forms of communication, including those developed by new technologies. What may seem strange is the expression "private communication", which is not found in the European Convention on Human Rights (article 8 speaks of correspondence) or in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (article 7 speaks of communications). One explanation could be the desire to link this confidentiality of communications (article 29) to the right to privacy (article 22). Whereas in Belgian constitutional law these two elements are enshrined in different provisions, in the European texts they are enshrined in an all-encompassing provision protecting different components of the right to privacy.

This article was co-authored by Edouard Cruysmans in his capacity of Professional Support Lawyer at Stibbe.