In the case of De Haes and Gijsels v. Belgium (1),

        The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with
Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the
relevant provisions of Rules of Court B (2), as a Chamber composed of
the following judges:

        Mr  R. Ryssdal, President,
        Mr  F. Matscher,
        Mr  J. De Meyer,
        Mr  I. Foighel,
        Mr  J.M. Morenilla,
        Sir John Freeland,
        Mr  A.B. Baka,
        Mr  K. Jungwiert,
        Mr  U. Lohmus,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar, and Mr P.J. Mahoney, Deputy
Registrar,

        Having deliberated in private on 29 October 1996 and
27 January 1997,

        Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
last-mentioned date:
_______________
Notes by the Registrar

1.  The case is numbered 7/1996/626/809.  The first number is the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the
relevant year (second number).  The last two numbers indicate the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its
creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications
to the Commission.

2.  Rules of Court B, which came into force on 2 October 1994, apply
to all cases concerning the States bound by Protocol No. 9 (P9).
________________

PROCEDURE

1.      The case was referred to the Court by the European Commission
of Human Rights ("the Commission") on 25 January 1996, within the
three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47 of
the Convention (art. 32-1, art. 47).  It originated in an application
(no. 19983/92) against the Kingdom of Belgium lodged with the
Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by two Belgian nationals,
Mr Leo De Haes and Mr Hugo Gijsels, on 12 March 1992.

        The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48
(art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby Belgium recognised
the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46).  The
object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts
of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its
obligations under Articles 6 and 10 of the Convention (art. 6,
art. 10).

2.      In response to the enquiry made in accordance with Rule 35
para. 3 (d) of Rules of Court B, the applicants stated that they wished
to take part in the proceedings and designated the lawyers who would
represent them (Rule 31).

3.      The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio
Mr J. De Meyer, the elected judge of Belgian nationality (Article 43
of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the President of the
Court (Rule 21 para. 4 (b)).  On 8 February 1996, in the presence of
the Registrar, the President drew by lot the names of the other
seven members, namely Mr F. Matscher, Mr I. Foighel, Mr J.M. Morenilla,
Sir John Freeland, Mr A.B. Baka, Mr K. Jungwiert and Mr U. Lohmus
(Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 5) (art. 43).

4.      As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 6), Mr Ryssdal,
acting through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the
Belgian Government ("the Government"), the applicants' lawyers and the
Delegate of the Commission on the organisation of the proceedings
(Rules 39 para. 1 and 40).  Pursuant to the order made in consequence,
the Registrar received the Government's and the applicants' memorials
on 26 June 1996.  On 9 October the Commission supplied him with various
documents he had requested on the President's instructions.

5.      In accordance with the President's decision, the hearing took
place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on
23 October 1996.  The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

        There appeared before the Court:

(a) for the Government

    Mr J. Lathouwers, Deputy Legal Adviser,
       Head of Division, Ministry of Justice,                  Agent,
    Mr E. Brewaeys, of the Brussels Bar,                     Counsel;

(b) for the Commission

    Mr J.-C. Geus,                                          Delegate;

(c) for the applicants

    Mr H. Vandenberghe, of the Brussels Bar,
    Mr E. Van der Mussele, of the Antwerp Bar,               Counsel.

        The Court heard addresses by Mr Geus, Mr Vandenberghe and
Mr Brewaeys.

AS TO THE FACTS

I.      Circumstances of the case

6.      Mr Leo De Haes and Mr Hugo Gijsels live in Antwerp and work as
an editor and journalist respectively for the weekly magazine Humo.

    A.  The action for damages against the applicants

7.      On 26 June, 17 July, 18 September and 6 and 27 November 1986
the applicants published five articles (see paragraphs 19 et seq.
below) in which they criticised judges of the Antwerp Court of Appeal
at length and in virulent terms for having, in a divorce suit, awarded
custody of the children to the father, Mr X, a Belgian notary
(notaire); in 1984 the notary's wife and parents-in-law had lodged a
criminal complaint accusing him of incest and of abusing the children,
but in the outcome it had been ruled that there was no case to answer.

8.      Mr X had instituted proceedings for criminal libel against
those who had lodged the complaint.  The Malines Criminal Court and
subsequently the Antwerp Court of Appeal acquitted the defendants on
4 October 1985 and 5 June 1986 respectively.  The Court of Appeal held,
inter alia:

        "At the present time the rulings that there was no case to
        answer show that the allegations have been judicially held to
        be without foundation.

        It has not been proved, however, that the defendants acted in
        bad faith, that is to say with malicious intent, and they had
        no good reason to doubt the truth of the allegations.

        Indeed, it was not only the defendants who were convinced that
        the allegations were true but also eminent academics, including
        Professor [MA] ... and Dr [MB], a child psychiatrist, both of
        whom were appointed as experts by the investigating judge,
        Mr [YE]...

        At the Criminal Court hearing on 6 September 1985 ... the
        expert [MB] confirmed on oath the content of his report.

        That expert, who can hardly be said to lack experience in the
        field of child psychology and who studied all the evidence in
        the criminal case file, concluded on 28 August 1984 that the
        children's statements were credible and put forward several
        arguments in support of that view."

        On 20 January 1987 the Court of Cassation dismissed an appeal
on points of law brought by Mr X.

        1.    In the Brussels tribunal de première instance

9.      On 17 February 1987 three judges and an advocate-general of the
Antwerp Court of Appeal, Mrs [YA], Mr [YB], Mr [YC] and Mr [YD],
instituted proceedings against Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels and against
Humo's editor, publisher, statutory representative, printer and
distributor in the Brussels tribunal de première instance
(court of first instance).  On the basis of Articles 1382 and 1383 of
the Civil Code (see paragraph 26 below), they sought compensation for
the damage caused by the statements made in the articles in question,
statements that were described as very defamatory (zeer lasterlijk en
eerrovend).  They asked the court to order the defendants to pay
nominal damages of one franc each in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
to order them to publish its judgment in Humo; and to give the
plaintiffs leave to have the judgment published in six daily newspapers
at the defendants' expense.

10.     In order to safeguard the principle of equality of arms and due
process, the defendants asked the court, in their additional
submissions of 20 May 1988, to request Crown Counsel to produce the
documents mentioned in the disputed articles or at least to study the
opinion of Professors [MA], [MC] and [MD] on the medical condition of
Mr X's children, which had been filed with the judicial authorities.
They gave the following grounds for their application:

        "The issue arises whether the defendants, given the factual
        evidence available to them, were entitled, within the limits
        of press freedom, to publish the impugned criticisms of the
        functioning of a judicial body.

        ...

        In the disputed press articles the defendants relied, in
        particular, on various medical reports, statements by the
        parties and reports by a bailiff.

        ...

        Nor can it be denied that Mr X's libel action against his wife
        was dismissed.

        Now that it must be determined whether the defendants were
        entitled to publish the impugned press articles on the basis
        of the information available to them, it is essential for the
        proper conduct of the case that Crown Counsel, who is acting
        in the case under Article 764-4 of the Judicial Code, should
        produce to the Court the documents cited as sources in the
        series of articles.  These documents are to be found in various
        court files.

        Any argument as to the lawfulness of the press criticism
        presupposes at the least that the Court should be able to study
        the opinion of Professors [MA], [MC] and [MD] on the treatment
        of X's children, which has been sent to the
        judicial authorities.

        The opinion of those eminent professors of medicine was the
        decisive factor which prompted Humo to publish the impugned
        series of articles in such a forceful manner.

        The views maintained by the defendants and the language and
        descriptions they used cannot be assessed in the abstract but
        must be assessed in the light of these data, which go to the
        substance of the case.

        Thus the European Court held in the Lingens case (judgment of
        the ECHR of 8 July 1986, Series A no. 103) that the issue of
        the limits of the exercise of freedom of expression had to be
        examined against the whole of the background:

              'It must look at them in the light of the case as a
              whole, including the articles held against the applicant
              and the context in which they were written' (paragraph 40
              of the judgment).

        ...

        For these reasons ... may it please the Court ... to hold that
        it is necessary, for the proper conduct of the proceedings, in
        particular in the light of the principle of equality of arms
        and due process, to request Crown Counsel to produce the
        documents cited in the disputed articles that appeared in the
        magazine Humo, or at least to study the opinion of
        Professors [MA], [MC] and [MD] on the medical condition of X's
        children, which has been filed with the judicial authorities."

11.     On 29 September 1988 the court ordered Mr De Haes and
Mr Gijsels to pay each plaintiff one franc in respect of non-pecuniary
damage and to publish the whole of its judgment in Humo; it also gave
the plaintiffs leave to have the judgment published at the applicants'
expense in six daily newspapers.  Lastly, it declared the action
inadmissible in so far as it was directed against the other defendants.

        The court held, inter alia:

        "The plaintiffs are obviously not challenging freedom of
        expression and of the press as guaranteed in Articles 14 and 18
        of the Constitution and Article 10 para. 1 (art. 10-1) of the
        [European Convention on Human Rights].  Equally, the defendants
        cannot dispute that this freedom is not unlimited and that
        there are certain bounds which cannot be overstepped.  As has
        already been set out ..., Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention
        (art. 10-2) is no obstacle to bringing a civil action under
        Article 1382 of the Civil Code where the press has acted
        wrongfully.

        Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention (art. 10-2) expressly
        provides that freedom of the press 'may be subject to such ...
        restrictions ... as are prescribed by law and are necessary ...
        for the protection of the reputation or rights of others ...
        or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the
        judiciary'.  The need to protect the plaintiffs' private life
        (Article 8 para. 1 of the Convention) (art. 8-1), and more
        specifically their honour and reputation, means, in the case
        of a press article, that the press must (1) strive to respect
        the truth; (2) not be gratuitously offensive; and (3) respect
        the privacy of the individual.  These criteria are taken up in
        the 'Declaration of the Rights and Obligations of Journalists'
        drawn up by the International Federation of Journalists.

        In the articles in question the defendants make frequent
        references to the fact that the plaintiffs had allegedly erred
        in their judgment and had shown bias.  The defendants accepted
        as true, without more, the statement made by Mr X's former wife
        and her expert adviser (Professor [MA]), although it was
        clearly shown in the reasons set out in the four judgments
        given in the case why that statement was not reliable.  More
        seriously still, in the articles in question the defendants
        expressed the opinion that the plaintiffs had to be regarded
        as biased, an opinion derived from the fact that they were said
        to belong to the influential circle of acquaintances of the
        notary and his father, that one of them was the son of a
        gendarmerie general who in 1948 had been convicted of
        collaboration, that they allegedly had an extreme-right-wing
        background and that they were friendly with each other.

        The plaintiffs' conduct was vigorously attacked by the
        defendants in extremely virulent terms, and the defendants
        clearly intended to present the plaintiffs in an unfavourable
        light and expose them to public opprobrium.  The defendants
        sought to give their readers the impression that the plaintiffs
        were siding with the children's father and that their judgments
        were inspired by certain ideological views.  To this end, the
        defendants needlessly reminded their readers of the wartime
        activities of the father of one of the plaintiffs.

        The plaintiffs rightly observed that they cannot simply be put
        on a par with members of the legislature or of the executive.
        Politicians were elected and the public had to trust them.
        Politicians could, moreover, use the media to defend themselves
        against any attacks.  Magistrats [a term which in Belgian law
        covers both judges and members of Crown Counsel offices], on
        the other hand, were expected to discharge their duties wholly
        independently and dispassionately.  Their duty of discretion
        meant that they could not defend themselves in the same way as
        politicians.

        That being so, the defendants committed a fault in attacking
        the plaintiffs' honour and reputation by means of irresponsible
        accusations and offensive insinuations.  The orders sought by
        the plaintiffs will provide appropriate redress for the
        non-pecuniary damage they have sustained ..."

        2.    In the Brussels Court of Appeal

12.     The applicants appealed against that judgment.  In their
submissions of 10 November 1989 they pointed out, among other things,
that the sole purpose of the articles in question had been to criticise
the functioning of the judicial system following the proceedings
conducted by the respondent judges and Advocate-General concerning
possible abuse and incestuous acts suffered by the children.  At no
time had they attacked the respondents' private life without reference
to their part in the impugned decision.  Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels
repeated their offer to prove the facts described in the articles and
asked the court to request Antwerp Principal Crown Counsel to produce
the documents they had mentioned, at least those emanating from
Professors [MA], [MC] and [MD] and those from the file on X's divorce,
in particular certain reports and a letter to Principal Crown Counsel
from Professor [MA].

13.     The respondents sought to have the judgment of the court below
upheld.  In their submission, the applicants' conduct had been all the
more reprehensible and offensive as in an article that had appeared in
Humo on 14 October 1988 (see paragraph 24 below) the applicants had not
only maintained their accusations that the three judges and the
Advocate-General were biased but also criticised by name, in
humiliating terms, the judges who had given the judgment of
29 September 1988 (see paragraph 11 above).

14.     On 5 February 1990 the Brussels Court of Appeal affirmed that
judgment, holding inter alia:

        "..., as submitted by the prosecution, no action must or can
        be taken on the appellants' application to the Court to
        'request Antwerp Principal Crown Counsel to produce to the
        Court the documents cited in the disputed articles that
        appeared in the weekly magazine Humo', and in particular -
        under Article 877 of the Judicial Code - 'all the documents
        from the X file'.

        As already indicated, it is not the Court's task - nor is it
        within its jurisdiction - to consider the case already
        determined by the Antwerp Court of Appeal, on appeal from the
        Youth Court.  It follows that the possible course - which is
        purely discretionary (Court of Cassation, 2 June 1977,
        Pas[icrisie] 1977, I, 1012) - provided in Article 877 of the
        Judicial Code of ordering that the documents in question should
        be added to the file of the present case would serve no useful
        purpose whatever.

        The appellants are accordingly bound to admit that they
        commented on a court case and besmirched the honour of
        magistrats without being in possession of all the necessary
        information, and this makes the complete irresponsibility of
        their malicious attacks even more flagrant.

        They further aggravate their position by offering 'to prove the
        facts referred to in the relevant articles by any legal means,
        including an examination of witnesses, before the case is
        decided' - an offer which not only must be rejected as being
        out of time but also clearly indicates - and this is the main
        point to be considered here - with what lack of care and
        information the articles in question were written and their
        accusations made, before the appellants even had sufficient
        evidence that they were true.

        In the present case the offer in question could not in any way
        support the appellants' case; on the contrary, it clearly shows
        that the original plaintiffs' arguments were well-founded and
        it also lacks the requisite precision.

        It is not sufficient for the appellants to offer - as they
        nevertheless do - to prove that everything they have written
        in the past concerning 'the case' is the truth; it has to be
        specified minutely, point by point, what precise and clearly
        described fact - 'precise and relevant' in the words of
        Article 915 of the Judicial Code - is being offered as
        evidence.  This is in order to make it possible for the
        opposing side to adduce rebutting evidence and to enable the
        Court to assess the relevance and importance of the facts
        adduced; the appellants did not even take the trouble to comply
        with this requirement.

        Furthermore, the Court already has before it all the
        information necessary to enable it to decide, in full knowledge
        of the facts, whether there has really been defamation.

        ...

        As regards the merits of the case, the court below, for ...
        relevant reasons that have not been refuted and with which this
        Court agrees, held that the original claim against the
        appellants was well-founded because the appellants had
        undeniably committed a gross fault in casting serious slurs on
        the honour and reputation of the original plaintiffs by means
        of unjustified accusations and offensive insinuations.

        Freedom of expression and of the press as guaranteed in
        Articles 14 and 18 of the Constitution and Article 10 para. 1
        (art. 10-1) of the [European Convention on Human Rights] is not
        unlimited; certain bounds must not be overstepped and, as has
        already been pointed out, it is even possible, under
        Articles 1382 and 1383 of the Civil Code, to bring an action
        for damages where the press has acted wrongfully.

        Moreover, in relation to the tort in question, Articles 443
        et seq. of the Criminal Code also refer to acts which may
        injure a person's honour or expose a person to public contempt.
        Defamation of public authorities is punishable in the same way
        as defamation of individuals.  Such defamation was precisely
        what the original plaintiffs in this case complained of and
        they undeniably constitute unlawful 'acts', as referred to in
        Article 1382 of the Civil Code, 'that cause damage to another'.

        There is no basis for the appellants' contention that
        'Article 443 of the Criminal Code is the sole provision in
        Belgian law which authorises the courts to restrict freedom to
        hold opinions with a view to protecting the honour and
        reputation of others; neither Article 764, 4, of the
        Judicial Code nor Article 1382 of the Civil Code does so'.
        According to that argument, the press, and it alone, is not
        subject to the ordinary, general rule in Articles 1382 and 1383
        of the Civil Code, which impose a duty on 'everyone' to act
        lawfully and make everyone responsible for any damage caused
        through his own 'act', 'failure to act' or 'negligence'.

        Under Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention (art. 10-2), freedom
        of the press may be subject to such restrictions as are
        prescribed by law and are necessary, as in the instant case,
        for the protection of the reputation or rights of others or for
        maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

        Pursuant to Article 8 para. 1 (art. 8-1) of the Convention for
        the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the
        guarantee of respect for private life requires that press
        articles should be truthful, must not be gratuitously offensive
        and must respect the privacy of the individual, criteria which
        were taken up in the 'Declaration of Rights and Obligations of
        Journalists' drawn up by the International Federation of
        Journalists and approved by the journalists of daily newspapers
        in different countries of the European Community in Munich on
        24 and 25 November 1971, where Belgium was represented by the
        Professional Union of the Belgian Press.

        The appellants cannot in any way rely on Article 19 of the
        UN Covenant or of the Universal Declaration, since these
        similarly make no reference to unlimited freedom of expression.

        Furthermore, the appellants did not explain, and it cannot be
        discerned, why the generally applicable concept of fault,
        expressly provided in Articles 1382 et seq. of the Civil Code,
        should be incompatible with Articles 8 para. 1 and 10 para. 2
        of the Convention (art. 8-1, art. 10-2) (whose precedence is
        not being called into question here) in relation to
        restrictions on freedom prescribed by law and the protection
        of private life, which is at issue here; nor why only
        journalists should not be subject to those provisions.

        In this connection, the Court wholly agrees with the relevant
        reasons set out in the judgment of the court below, which it
        adopts in their entirety.

        ...

        Admittedly, the European Court of Human Rights held in the
        Bruno Kreisky case that the Austrian journalist Lingens, who
        was concerned in that case, had attacked Mr Kreisky exclusively
        as a politician and consequently had not violated his right to
        respect for private life.  In the instant case, on the
        contrary, that right was well and truly - indeed grossly -
        challenged by the appellants.

        The words used and the insinuations and imputations made in the
        articles and passages in question are extremely virulent and
        dishonouring, since the original plaintiffs, referred to by
        name, were accused of having been biased as senior magistrats,
        and it was gratuitously insinuated that they had links with the
        VMO [Vlaamse Militanten Orde] and that they came from an
        extreme-right-wing background and belonged to the circle of
        friends of the children's father - who was also, in the
        appellants' opinion, extremely right-wing - so that the
        judicial decisions made by the original plaintiffs in respect
        of the children's custody were only to be expected - all this
        without any serious and objective evidence whatever being
        adduced or existing to show that the accusations against these
        magistrats had any factual basis.

        ...

        The appellants manifestly intended to give their readers the
        impression that the judges and Advocate-General concerned had
        sided with one of the parties to the case and, furthermore,
        that their judgments were inspired by certain ideological
        views.

        Additionally, they needlessly and in a quite uncalled-for
        manner reminded their readers of the wartime activities of the
        second respondent's late father, which the second respondent
        had absolutely nothing to do with and which - despite the
        appellants' opinion to the contrary - belong exclusively to the
        protected sphere of private life.

        Even if the appellants believed that certain ideological views
        could be ascribed to the respondents (views which they have
        failed to prove that the respondents held), they cannot in any
        event be permitted purely and simply to infer from those
        views - even if they had been proved - that the judges and the
        Advocate-General were biased and to criticise that bias in
        public.

        In none of these suspicions or pieces of gossip directed
        against the judges and Advocate-General who brought the
        original action is there a shred of truth, and the applicants
        even lied in their article of 6 November 1986 (p. 19) when they
        stated that the case decided by those judges had been withdrawn
        from them by the Court of Cassation, whereas they have now had
        to admit in their additional pleadings (p. 6) that
        'Principal Crown Counsel at the Court of Cassation refused to
        order that the case should be transferred to another court
        (under Article 651 of the Judicial Code)'.

        On 6 November 1986 they announced: 'Last Thursday the Wim and
        Jan case took a dramatic legal turn.  On an application by
        Principal Crown Counsel ..., the Court of Cassation withdrew
        the X case from the Antwerp court and transferred it to the
        Ghent tribunal [de première instance] in the hope that the
        Ghent magistrats would adopt a less biased approach ...'

        Admittedly, they went back on this point on 27 November,
        writing: '... Our prediction of a fortnight ago that the
        agonisingly slow progress being made in the Wim and Jan case
        was likely to leave the case stranded in the Antwerp courts has
        come true.  In the teeth of all the evidence, the
        Court of Cassation has held that the Antwerp judiciary cannot
        be accused of any bias in this incest case and that the whole
        case can therefore continue to be dealt with in Antwerp ...'

        False reports of this kind, however, caused the original
        plaintiffs irreparable damage, since to be accused of bias is
        the worst possible insult that can be levelled at a magistrat.

        The exceptional virulence of the appellants' irresponsible
        criticisms can probably be explained - but not excused - by
        certain political quarrels (which, indeed, do not serve the
        interests of justice), as was acknowledged by the appellants
        themselves in the 12 February 1987 issue of Humo: '...  If any
        further proof were needed of behind-the-scenes intrigues in the
        case of Mr X and of the fact that political allegiances are
        definitely playing a role, this (premature?) leak to the press
        is one of the most persuasive pieces of evidence ...'

        Because of the unacceptable way in which they were attacked in
        the impugned articles, the original plaintiffs were shown in
        a particularly unpleasant light and their honour and reputation
        were seriously undermined by insulting statements which without
        any doubt went far beyond what the appellants described as
        'their ability to take flak'.

        The appellants in fact nevertheless consider their aggressive
        style and offensive disparagements justifiable in a little
        paper like Humo, which they describe as 'clearly critical and
        anti-bourgeois'.

        However, although, when ruling on the defamatory nature of
        contributions published in a magazine of this kind with a clear
        critical stance towards bourgeois society, one must not apply
        the same criteria as when ruling on libellous articles in an
        'ordinary' newspaper, it nevertheless remains true that even
        in an avowedly critical magazine certain standards must be
        respected when criticisms are made, certain bounds must not be
        overstepped and it is not permissible to publish false
        information and unproved accusations with the clear aim of
        humiliating and wounding particular persons, as to do so
        undeniably amounts to an abuse of press freedom.

        While people are certainly entitled to be 'anti-bourgeois' (?),
        this does not authorise them to pour out pure gossip to the
        public - however limited their readership - by writing, for
        example: 'The Advocate-General [YD] has since very properly
        been removed from this case for having exceeded his authority'
        (Humo, 17 July 1986, pp. 6 and 7).

        Nevertheless, although the appellants have now, in their
        additional submissions, backed down and, saying that their
        earlier statement that the Advocate-General had been 'removed'
        had been a 'personal interpretation' of the 'fact that at a
        given point he had ceased to sit', such an 'interpretation'
        should impel these 'journalists' - however particularly
        'personal' their style may be - to practise their profession
        in future in a less unscrupulous manner.

        In the 14 October 1988 issue of Humo (p. 15) - that is to say
        during the present proceedings and although they had announced
        in the same short piece that they would be appealing - the
        appellants made their position considerably worse still by
        again accusing the original plaintiffs of bias and criticising,
        in similarly degrading terms, the judges who delivered the
        judgment at first instance, who were mentioned by name.

        This article stated, among other things: '... The
        Vice-President, [YF], and the other judges, [YG] and [YH],
        dealt with the case carelessly (sic) ...  We wonder whether
        their Lordships actually read Humo's submissions ...  But at
        no time has Humo ever brought up anything to do with the
        judges' private lives (sic) ...  Clearly, the Brussels judges
        [YF], [YG] and [YH] did not manage to give judgment with the
        necessary detachment and independence on their fellow judges
        of the Antwerp Court of Appeal.  They are thus adhering to the
        line of biased judgments ...'

        This could be interpreted as a particularly misplaced and
        culpable attempt to influence [the members of this Court],
        especially as the appellants predict, through counsel in their
        pleading (p. 27), that no newspaper will be prepared to publish
        the present judgment, a step that has in any case not been
        sought.

        As regards the question of the case having been dealt with
        'carelessly', the appellants have still not grasped that
        usually - and rightly - the courts must attach greater weight -
        as they did in the instant case - to the findings of expert
        witnesses that the courts themselves have appointed and who
        have no connection with the litigants and whose objectivity
        therefore cannot be called in question by either of the parties
        rather than - as the appellants do - to the parties' own
        experts, whose investigations, assessments and findings,
        however, form the main or even sole evidence on which the
        appellants believe they are entitled to rely to make their
        attacks.

        As is unfortunately only too often to be found, notably in
        court cases, even excellent university professors and
        specialists - in the instant case no fewer than three on each
        side - disagree among themselves and, particularly in the
        fields of psychology and psychiatry, hold diametrically opposed
        views - of which each claims to be 100% certain; this should
        prompt everyone - particularly journalists - to refrain from
        making accusations of bias - that is to say the most serious
        of all - against judges who have to make the final decision on
        issues as thorny as the custody of children, where strong
        passions are always aroused, and who must necessarily prefer
        one of the different versions put forward by the parties to the
        proceedings.

        In the instant case the appellants dared to go one step further
        by maintaining, without a shred of evidence, that they were
        entitled to infer the alleged bias from the very personalities
        of the judges and the Advocate-General and thus interfere with
        private life, which is without any doubt unlawful.

        Furthermore, the purpose of the present proceedings is not to
        decide what ultimately was the objective truth in the case that
        the original plaintiffs finally determined at the time but
        merely whether the comments in issue are to be considered
        defamatory, which is not in the slightest doubt.

        Although the appellants refused to acknowledge the fact,
        magistrats cannot be unreservedly put on the same footing as
        politicians, who can always adequately and promptly defend
        themselves, orally or in writing, against reprehensible
        personal attacks and are therefore less vulnerable than a
        magistrat, who is neither able nor entitled to do likewise.

        The status of a magistrat is radically different from that of
        all other holders of public office and of politicians and is
        in no way based on privileges or traditions but on the fact
        that it is necessary for the administration of justice, which
        entails particular tasks and responsibilities (see the speech
        delivered by F. Dumon, formerly Principal Crown Counsel at the
        Court of Cassation, at the opening session of the new
        judicial term on 1 September 1981, 'Le pouvoir judiciaire,
        inconnu et méconnu', p. 64).

        Given the discretion incumbent upon them by virtue of their
        office, magistrats cannot defend themselves in the same way as,
        for example, politicians, if certain newspapers, apparently
        hungry for lucrative sensational stories, attack them and drag
        them through the mud.

        Purely political cases are precisely what most of the case-law
        and legal opinion cited by the appellants in this connection
        relates to, however, and it is therefore not relevant to the
        instant case.

        Unlike a politician, a judge cannot discuss in public a case
        pending before him with a view to justifying his conduct, so
        that [the original plaintiffs'] failure to exercise their right
        of reply certainly cannot be held against them by the
        appellants (see Ganshof van der Meersch, formerly
        Principal Crown Counsel at the Court of Cassation,
        'Considérations sur l'art de dire le droit', esp. p. 20); this
        duty of discretion has again recently been referred to by the
        Court of Cassation (Court of Cassation, 14 May 1987,
        [Journal des Tribunaux] 1988, p. 58)."

        3.    In the Court of Cassation

15.     Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels applied to the Court of Cassation,
which dismissed their appeal on points of law on 13 September 1991
(Pasicrisie 1992, I, p. 41).

16.     In their first ground of appeal, they alleged a violation of
the right to an independent and impartial tribunal, relying, in
particular, on Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1).  In
their submission, certain passages of the Court of Appeal's judgment
raised legitimate doubts as to the impartiality of those who had
written it.  This was true, for instance, of the words "a little paper
like Humo", the word "sic" in the extract from the article of
14 October 1988 (see paragraph 24 below) concerning the judgment of
29 September 1988 (see paragraph 11 above), a number of punctuation
marks, such as the question mark after the term "anti-bourgeois", and
the statement that the article of 14 October 1988 was "a particularly
misplaced and culpable attempt to influence [the members of the
Court of Appeal]".  The applicants also complained that due process had
been disregarded in that, as they alleged, the Court of Appeal had
referred to the article of 14 October 1988 of its own motion without
their having been able to defend themselves on that point.

        The Court of Cassation rejected this ground, considering that
"it could not be inferred from the mere fact that in their decision the
appellate judges had shown that they preferred the arguments of one of
the parties and disapproved of those of the other parties that there
had been an infringement of the statutory provision and general
principles relied on in this limb of the ground of appeal".  As to the
article that had appeared in Humo on 14 October 1988, the appellate
judges had not referred to it of their own motion, since the
respondents to the appeal on points of law had mentioned it in their
submissions to the Court of Appeal.

17.     In their second ground of appeal Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels
complained of a violation of Articles 8 and 10 of the Convention
(art. 8, art. 10).  In finding against them on the basis of the general
concept of fault in Articles 1382 and 1383 of the Civil Code, the
Court of Appeal had, they said, made their freedom of expression
subject to formalities, conditions, restrictions and penalties not
prescribed by "law" within the meaning of Article 10 para. 2 of the
Convention (art. 10-2) (first limb).  Furthermore, by holding that
press articles must strive to respect the truth, must not be
gratuitously offensive and must respect the privacy of the individual,
the Court of Appeal had created restrictions which went beyond what was
strictly necessary in a democratic society; public discussion of the
functioning of the judicial system was of greater importance than the
interest of magistrats in protecting themselves from criticism
(second limb).  Lastly, the evidence in the file did not justify the
Court of Appeal's finding that the articles in dispute had disregarded
the aforementioned restrictions (third limb).

        The Court of Cassation dismissed this ground of appeal, holding
in particular:

        "As to the first limb:

        In reaching the conclusion that the appellants are liable for
        the consequences of their press articles, the Court of Appeal
        based its judgment not only on the finding - partly cited in
        this limb of the ground of appeal - that the appellants had
        committed an unlawful act and that they 'did not explain, and
        it cannot be discerned, why the generally applicable concept
        of fault, expressly provided in Articles 1382 et seq. of the
        Civil Code, should be incompatible with Articles 8 para. 1 and
        10 para. 2 of the Convention (art. 8-1, art. 10-2)' but also
        on the undisputed finding, rightly raised by the respondents,
        that the appellants had been guilty of defamation as defined
        in Articles 443 et seq. of the Criminal Code.

        The Court of Appeal's judgment sets out reasons (not challenged
        in this limb of the ground of appeal) for the finding that the
        appellants had committed a fault within the meaning of
        Article 1382 of the Civil Code.

        This limb cannot justify quashing the judgment of the court
        below and is accordingly inadmissible, as argued by the
        respondents.

        As to the second limb:

        Under Article 10 (art. 10) cited above, the exercise of the
        right to freedom of expression may be subject to the
        restrictions or penalties necessary in a democratic society for
        the protection of the reputation or rights of others or for
        maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

        When asked to punish a given abuse of freedom of expression
        affecting members of the judiciary, the courts must endeavour
        to maintain a fair balance between the requirements of freedom
        of expression and the restrictions applicable under Article 10
        para. 2 (art. 10-2) of the aforementioned Convention.

        In the instant case the Court of Appeal based its decision that
        the appellants had abused the freedom of expression secured in
        Article 10 para. 1 (art. 10-1) of the Convention for the
        Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms not only
        on the need to protect the respondents' private life but also
        on the unchallenged grounds that the accusations made had not
        been proved, the criticism had been directed against named
        judges, the matters relied on were irrelevant to the decisions
        that had been taken and the accusations had been inspired by
        a desire to harm the respondents personally and damage their
        reputation.

        In holding, as appears from the text of its judgment, that,
        'pursuant to Article 8 para. 1 (art. 8-1) of the Convention for
        the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the
        guarantee of respect for private life requires that
        press articles should be truthful, must not be gratuitously
        offensive and must respect the privacy of the individual', the
        Court of Appeal took the view that a balance had to be sought
        between the interests of a free press and private interests;
        it did not thereby decide that the general interest of a public
        discussion of the functioning of the judiciary was less
        important than private interests, nor did it add any
        restriction to the exceptions exhaustively set out in
        Article 10 para. 2 (art. 10-2).

        This limb of the ground of appeal cannot be allowed.

        As to the third limb:

        Regard being had to the foregoing considerations, the
        third limb lacks any basis in fact."

18.     In their third ground of appeal the applicants complained of
the Brussels Court of Appeal's refusal to take into consideration all
the evidence that had been before the Antwerp Court of Appeal and to
allow them to prove by any means the truth of their assertions.  In
their submission, Articles 6 and 10 of the Convention (art. 6, art. 10)
had thereby been contravened.

        The Court of Cassation held:

        "The Court of Appeal decided not to grant the appellants'
        application for leave to prove the truth of their accusations;
        in particular, it refused to order that the files of the cases
        which had given rise to the decisions criticised in the press
        should be admitted in evidence.

        It based its decision not only on the grounds cited in the
        ground of appeal but also on separate, undisputed findings:
        that the appellants had admitted besmirching the reputation of
        magistrats without being in possession of all the necessary
        information, which in itself constituted a fault; that the
        offer to bring evidence was out of time and ineffective; and
        that the Court of Appeal had before it all the information
        necessary to enable it to decide, in full knowledge of the
        facts, whether there had really been defamation.

        This ground of appeal cannot justify quashing the judgment of
        the court below and is accordingly inadmissible."

    B.  The articles in issue

19.     The judgments against Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels related to
five articles that appeared in Humo (see paragraph 7 above).  The first
of these, published on 26 June 1986, included the following:

        "...

        Today, Thursday 26 June, the courts are due to rule in the
        long-running case of a well-known Antwerp notary who has been
        sexually abusing his two young sons.  The notary himself comes
        from a distinguished Flemish family with close links to the
        most select financial circles in the country.  All the
        indications are that the reputation of the father and
        grandfather count for more than the physical and mental health
        of the children.  Up to now, the court has rejected, without
        batting an eyelid, all medical and psychiatric reports
        unfavourable to the notary.

        How can this be?  Louis De Lentdecker has already written about
        this case in De Standaard, albeit in veiled terms.  However,
        he was promptly taken to task by the Antwerp Advocate-General
        on the ground that his report had 'seriously compromised' the
        children's father.  Yet De Lentdecker had mentioned absolutely
        no names.  For our part, we will also refrain from mentioning
        the father's name or those of the two under-age children (for
        convenience, we will call the three-year-old boy 'Wim' and the
        six-year-old 'Jan' and give the family's surname as 'X').  For
        the rest, we have every intention of mentioning the other names
        involved as this is not the first time that the Antwerp courts
        have shown a lack of independence and given extremely odd
        judgments.

        This report is not for those of a sensitive disposition.  We
        put the facts to a psychologist working in a centre for
        psychological, medical and social therapy, a magistrat, a
        paediatrician and two lawyers, none of whom has anything to do
        with the case.  Each of them, independently of the others,
        advised us to report on the case in the interests of the
        children.

        ...

        After Jan was born, things started to go wrong within the
        family.  The husband was having affairs and even had another
        home.  Divorce proceedings are filed in October 1983.  The
        mother is awarded interim custody of the children; the father
        is given fortnightly access.  At the end of 1983 the children
        return home after spending the Christmas holidays with their
        father; their mother finds them in a state of total exhaustion.
        Her paediatrician, Dr [ME], diagnoses them as having been
        overtaxed.  While playing, the elder boy tells a story from
        which it is apparent that his father has raped him.  Dr [ME]
        is notified and advises the mother to consult a forensic
        medical examiner.

        The same thing happens on 8 January 1984.

        Following her paediatrician's advice, the mother tries to
        consult a forensic medical examiner, but he advises her to see
        a general practitioner first.  There is no answer when she
        rings Dr [ME], so she turns to the duty doctor, [MF].  He finds
        that the elder boy has an 'irritation of the anus' and refers
        the mother to a paediatrician in Malines, Dr [MG].  He in turn
        observes the following injuries to the elder boy: 'slight
        anal fissure, pronounced redness around the anus, rectal smear
        showing presence of sperm'.  That evening, at his request,
        Dr [ME], the paediatrician, re-examines the children and, given
        the seriousness of the situation, refers them to Dr [MH], of
        the Mental Health Centre.

        On the basis of these medical reports, amongst other things,
        Judge [YI] of the Antwerp tribunal de première instance, acting
        on an urgent application, decides on 29 January 1984 to suspend
        the father's right of access.

        However, on 31 January the Third Division of the Antwerp Court
        of Appeal restores the notary's right of access, although the
        children are not to spend the night at his home and access has
        to take place in the presence of the grandparents.

        The nightmare begins, not only for the children, but also for
        their mother.

        ...

        On 4 February 1984, for the first time in four weeks, the
        notary has an access visit.  At 10 o'clock in the morning he
        picks up the children in Malines, returning them to their
        mother at around 6.30 p.m.  In a report the mother, shocked and
        bewildered, says: 'State of the children: distraught.  Wim
        (aged 3) lies down on the ground and sobs.  Jan (aged 6) sits
        down apathetically on a chair.  He has visible clinical
        injuries: a very painful mouth, which he cannot close, severe
        swelling of the lower lip and problems with his eyes; four of
        his upper teeth come out at once; he also has a swelling of the
        neck below the left ear, a reddish irritation of the cheeks and
        scratches on the left cheek.'  Her lawyer urges her to report
        the matter to the police at all costs, but she thinks there is
        no longer any point.  In her statement she writes,
        despairingly, 'I did not want to, seeing that the gendarmerie
        were so sympathetic to the family and that I had already
        discovered from experience that the gendarmes did not take me
        seriously where the children were concerned.'

        ...

        The mother's despairing protests are to no avail.  On
        18 February, 26 February and 3 March 1984, the father rapes his
        children again.

        Enough is enough.  On 6 March 1984, at the request of
        Malines Crown Counsel, Detective Sergeant Luc R. interviews
        little Jan.  A tape recording of the interview is filed with
        the Malines Criminal Court.  We have seen the transcript of
        this interview.  In childish words, but coherently and without
        contradicting himself, Jan describes sexual acts performed by
        his father on him and on his brother, who is even younger.  The
        content of this interview is far too sensitive for us to
        reproduce it here.

        ...

        The mother no longer has any alternative.  Since her urgent
        request for a renowned expert to be appointed has twice been
        rejected, she herself calls in the child psychiatrist [MA], a
        professor at the Catholic University of Louvain.  On 6 and
        11 April he examines the children and finds that during the
        weekend of 8-9 April the father has again ill-treated and raped
        his children.  According to Professor [MA]'s findings, the
        children's story essentially corresponds to what is stated in
        the mother's complaint.  Moreover, the children reveal certain
        details to him which even the mother has not mentioned and
        which her children manifestly cannot have invented.
        Professor [MA] concludes: 'We are convinced that the children's
        visits to their father are manifestly likely to have an adverse
        effect on their future development.  It is already clear that
        the immediate effect of access is that the children are
        extremely upset and disorientated; after the two days spent
        with their father, they present as anxious and aggressive.  If
        these visits continue, we fear that both children may develop
        problems, in the nature of mental illness in the case of the
        elder and, in the case of the younger, a tendency to regress,
        with arrested development.  We therefore request that the
        children should undergo a thorough psychiatric examination;
        that all the parties, including the father, should be
        interviewed; and that, pending this examination, the father's
        right of access be temporarily withdrawn.'

        On 28 May 1984 Professor [MA] sent a detailed report on the
        case to Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] and the
        Advocate-General [YD].  It is an impressive document recording
        the results of a number of psychiatric examinations of the
        children in the form of interviews (both with and without the
        mother present).  The children were examined both immediately
        after an access visit and at less stressful times during the
        week.  Professor [MA] concluded: 'The two children confirm,
        independently of each other, the various types of sexual abuse
        which have been inflicted on them.'  Could the mother have
        coached the children in these stories?  Professor [MA] says
        'Jan's version of events always coincides with his mother's.
        I see this in itself as an indication that Jan's story reflects
        real experiences.  A child of six does not in fact yet have the
        intellectual capacity, in the context of a guided interview,
        to faithfully reproduce, exactly as it has been told to him,
        a story which he has been "fed".  Furthermore, there were times
        when Jan replied to very specific questions with equally
        specific answers, which he had never given his mother (and
        which his mother had therefore never mentioned).  Thus when
        asked whether "he bites the willy when it comes into his
        mouth", he answers, very specifically: "I can't, because he
        (the father) puts his fingers between my teeth."  I do not
        consider that a six-year-old child is capable of inventing so
        specific a response, nor do I believe that such specific
        responses could have been "prepared" in advance by the mother.'

        On 22 June Professor [MA] sent a supplementary report to
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] and the Advocate-General [YD].
        In it the child psychiatrist confirms his earlier findings with
        the aid of even more convincing arguments and again calls,
        insistently, for a judicial investigation and a further
        expert psychiatric report.  But to no avail.  The unthinkable
        happens: three days later the Third Division of the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal grants Mr X custody of his children.

        The court holds, inter alia: 'An expert opinion is not required
        and, indeed, is not desirable in that the expert would
        inevitably find himself faced with the issue of fault, which
        must be left to the courts alone to decide.'  Those responsible
        for this extremely odd judgment are [YA] (the presiding judge),
        [YC] and [YB] (the other judges) and [YD] (the
        Advocate-General).

        ...

        In July, pursuant to the custody award in his favour, the
        notary has the children staying with him; they are again raped.
        In a tape-recorded interview Jan tells Professor [MA] that his
        Daddy has done 'the same thing' again, that Daddy 'thumped' him
        and hit him on his tummy and that he wasn't allowed to tell
        anyone about it.  Jan doesn't know how many times his father
        has raped him - 'several times, I can't count them'.

        Professor [MA] sends his umpteenth letter on the matter to
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ], stating, without mincing his
        words: 'In an emergency the State is bound to intervene under
        section 36 (2) of the Child Protection Act ...  It is
        impossible and unacceptable for two children to remain exposed
        to an extremely dangerous situation as a result of a
        court decision.'

        All Professor [MA]'s findings are subsequently confirmed in 'an
        expert report' by Dr [MB], a child psychiatrist and
        psychoanalyst appointed by the investigating judge [YE] of the
        Malines tribunal de première instance.  The following few
        extracts from Dr [MB]'s report may suffice: '(1) After a little
        embarrassment Jan nevertheless finds it fairly easy to talk
        about his experiences with Daddy.  His clearest memory is of
        the events of July 1984.  He describes how Daddy sometimes used
        to sit on him, how Daddy used to put his sexual organ into his
        anus, or sometimes his mouth, and wee-wee.  He says that Daddy
        threatened him, saying that he would saw Grandma and Grandpa
        in half, and really hurt Jan, if he said anything about it all.
        He says that Daddy didn't act like that when Daddy and Mummy
        were still together, Daddy just used to hit him; (2) Jan
        describes these experiences fairly readily and there are no
        contradictions in what he says.  However, he presents as
        shocked and embarrassed when recounting certain things.  He
        blushes and sometimes protests vigorously that Daddy was
        hurting him.  He does not give the impression of making things
        up or merely seeking attention.'

        Psychoanalysis of Jan's emotional life reveals, moreover, that
        the little boy is constantly anxious and traumatised.  The
        findings concerning the younger child are similar.  According
        to Dr [MB], 'His [Wim's] fantasies create a strong impression
        that there has been sexual abuse by the father and that his
        unconscious is trying to assimilate these uncomfortable
        impressions.'

        In October little Wim is again interviewed by
        two detective sergeants and his (female) schoolteacher.  The
        interview takes place in Wim's usual classroom, in the presence
        of the headmistress.  The child repeatedly confirms what has
        happened to him.  The interview was transcribed verbatim and
        the tape filed as an exhibit at the
        Malines tribunal de première instance.

        ...

        How can a father reach the point of committing such atrocities
        against his own children?  In his report Professor [MA] says:
        'The problems between husband and wife became more serious
        after Jan was born.  It was then that X, for the first time,
        overtly displayed his sympathies with Hitler.  Thus, for
        example:

        ·     The family had to live according to Hitler's principles:
        women do not count - at most, they are instruments of
        procreation.  Anyone who fails to become an "Übermensch"
        (superman) had better die.  An "Übermensch" can legitimately
        lie and be dishonest.  [X] is in fact awaiting the coming of
        a new Hitler.  His whole way of life is dominated by that.

        ·     The children were to be brought up in Hitler's doctrine.
        They were made to give the Nazi salute; they were taught not
        to play but only to fight and make war.  The children were to
        venerate their father just as the German people venerated
        Hitler at the time; their mother is merely an intruder in the
        X family.

        ·     Lastly, it is worth noting that Mr X has also declared on
        several occasions that he possesses supernatural powers and can
        crush anyone who opposes him.  In particular, he says "We are
        leeches, we squeeze someone like a lemon, then we drop them."
        He certainly feels very powerful.  He has also spoken to the
        children on several occasions about his "supernatural powers",
        saying that he was going to change Jan into a brown sheep and
        leave him in a field and that he was going to change little Wim
        into an owl.  He also used to talk to the children a lot about
        skeletons and skulls.  As a result, little Wim once asked his
        mother out of the blue "not to put him under the ground in a
        box".'

        Professor [MA] ends his remarks on the father thus:

        'His manifest sympathies with Hitler and his regime, and his
        fantasies concerning his own supernatural powers and
        omnipotence reveal, at the very least, in my opinion, a
        pathological personality.  I accordingly consider that a much
        more thoroughgoing judicial investigation and
        psychiatric report are imperative in this case.'

        ...

        The X family's almost daily contacts with the legal world are
        not enough to explain how he has remained almost immune.  The
        large network of contacts which the family has woven over the
        years is proving useful in this respect, especially their
        contacts in extreme-right-wing and/or
        Flemish nationalist circles.  For example, members of the
        X family are militants in the Stracke Noodfonds, the
        Marnixring, the Orde van de Prince, the Vlaamse Kulturele
        Produkties (an offshoot of Were Di), the Nationalistich Jong
        Studenten Verbond (NJSV) and the Vlaams Blok.  It is a
        well-known fact that the X family gives financial support to
        the VMO.  In 1971 they helped create the 'new' VMPO under
        Bert Eriksson, and at the time of the VMO trials they launched
        an appeal through the Stracke Noodfonds for members to make a
        financial contribution in support of 'dozens of young
        Flemish people facing ridiculous penalties and fines'.
        Witnesses confirm that the cellar of the X family's house is
        decorated with Nazi swastika flags, the ideal décor for
        nostalgic little 'brown' parties.  Equally remarkable are the
        X family's efforts in support of apartheid.  One of the members
        of the family was even a founder of the pro-South-African club
        Protea.  Why is this network of contacts so important in the
        notary's incest case?

        Most of the judges of the Third Division of the
        Court of Appeal, who awarded custody to the notary, also belong
        to extreme-right-wing circles.  Judge [YB] is the son of a
        bigwig in the gendarmerie who was convicted in 1948 of
        collaboration: he had, in close collaboration with the
        'Feldgendarmerie', restructured the Belgian gendarmerie along
        Nazi lines.  [YB] is no less controversial as a magistrat.
        During the judicial investigation into the VMO training camps
        in the Ardennes, he managed, in the teeth of all the evidence,
        to sustain the theory that the photographs of the training camp
        had nothing to do with the VMO but came from German neo-Nazis.

        Another judge in this incest case is [YA]; she is the President
        of the Antwerp Court of Appeal.  During the VMO trial, over
        which she presided, the organisation was acquitted on the
        charge of constituting a private militia.  This judgment was
        subsequently reversed by the Ghent Court of Appeal.

        And then there is Principal Crown Counsel [YJ], whom
        Professor [MA] has bombarded with reports denouncing the
        sexual abuse of the children.  It just so happens that
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] has the same political sympathies
        as the X family.  He was one of the founders of Protea but had
        to resign after a question was asked in Parliament.  He is
        still a member of the Marnixring and of the Orde van de Prince
        in Malines, with both of which the X family maintains very
        special links.

        Since the very beginning of the investigation the gendarmerie
        too have played a dubious role.  The abused children and their
        mother have consistently been treated like dirt, whereas the
        notary accused of incest and his father have been treated with
        the greatest consideration.  Is it a coincidence that the
        X family maintains contacts with several of the (present or
        past) bigwigs of the gendarmerie: former
        Lieutenant-General [ZC] (Protea and the Orde van de Prince),
        General [ZD] (the Marnixring) and General [ZE] (the Marnixring
        and Orde van de Prince)?

        ...

        The children are not in good shape.  They are receiving
        treatment and, according to well-informed sources, are still
        'at risk'.  There are only two possible solutions.  Either the
        prosecuting authorities have the courage, in the light of
        recent events and findings, to prosecute the notary or else the
        Youth Court must begin new proceedings with a view to restoring
        custody to the mother.  This last point is not unimportant
        since Mrs X has been summoned to appear before the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal on 26 June on the grounds that she has
        twice attempted to keep the children with her at the end of an
        access visit.

        In the meantime, the mother and her parents have been duly
        acquitted on appeal in proceedings instituted against them by
        the notary for making a defamatory witness statement.  They had
        already been acquitted at first instance.  There are only
        two possibilities: either the mother's complaint is defamatory
        or it is not, in which case the notary is guilty of incest.
        There is no other possibility."

20.     Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels published their second article on
17 July 1986.  It included the following:

        "...

        On Tuesday 24 June Humo published in issue no. 2390 an article
        that caused a sensation: 'Incest authorised in Flanders'.  In
        that article Mr X, a notary from a distinguished Flemish family
        with close links to the highest financial circles in the land,
        was accused of having repeatedly raped and beaten his little
        boys, Wim and Jan.  Those allegations were supported by a
        number of medical and psychiatric reports.  Despite the
        evidence, the notary was awarded custody of the children.

        In the report, we paid due attention to the dubious role played
        by the gendarmerie and the network of extreme-right-wing
        contacts maintained by the X family, whose tentacles have
        reached the Antwerp law courts.  This network of contacts is
        principally centred on staunch brown organisations like the
        VMO, Protea, the Stracke Noodfonds and the Marnixring.  We also
        showed how Judges [YJ], [YA] and [YB] - who saw to it that the
        father gained custody - fitted into and around these shady
        movements.

        From the large number of letters we have received, it appears
        that half Flanders is shocked by such warped justice.  The same
        question comes up again and again: what kind of a country are
        we living in?  In the meantime, we have obtained even more
        information about what some of the most highly placed circles
        have been allowed to get away with, hand in hand with their
        lackeys in the courts and the gendarmerie.

        ...

        Humo had hardly come off the presses when Mr X personally
        telephoned one of the authors of the article to say, in a
        threatening tone: 'I am not a pederast.  I am not a paedophile.
        The time will come when you will apologise to me!!!'  And then
        he hung up.

        In the course of the legal proceedings, Mr X has devoted
        himself to making even more brutal intimidation attempts.  For
        instance, he assaulted one of his children's uncles in broad
        daylight on the Meir in Antwerp.  When the children's mother
        was acquitted of libel, he hurled abuse at her counsel within
        the precincts of the Antwerp law courts and in front of other
        people. His own counsel had to intervene to calm him down.  One
        of the doctors who had found evidence of sexual abuse received
        a registered letter threatening him with criminal libel
        proceedings unless he withdrew the findings in his examination
        report.  At least one other doctor has been bombarded with
        letters containing the crudest threats.  The journalist
        covering the Antwerp Court of Appeal hearing on 26 June was
        pursued by the notary when he went out for some fresh air
        during a brief adjournment.  The reporter had no choice but to
        escape by running between the fairground stalls of the
        Whitsun fair.

        The management of Humo and of the Dupuis publishing house have
        also been put under strong pressure.  The X family were tipped
        off that an article was about to be published concerning the
        incest case.  What happened?  The printing was held up for
        hours, but the article was nevertheless published.

        ...

        This kind of brutal pressurising seems to 'work' very well
        within the system of justice.  After the article was published,
        a mass of new information came in from all sorts of quarters.
        This unique incest case has been gathering notoriety for quite
        some time, not only in the professional circles of
        paediatricians and child psychiatrists but also in
        Crown Counsel offices, the youth courts and children's refuges.
        Thanks to the fresh data, we now have an even better picture
        of how often and how treacherously the courts have manipulated
        the case - with, up to now, only one apparent aim: to promote,
        not the welfare of the children, but that of the notary.

        ...

        ·     Likewise accepted were the results of an hour's
        questioning by Detective Sergeants [ZF] and [ZG], during which
        Jan was once again forced to withdraw his accusations.
        Louis De Lentdecker, who was on the spot when Jan came out,
        wrote in De Standaard: 'He started crying, sobbing.  He was
        completely distraught.  Shaking with sobs, he said that he had
        been questioned again by two men, that he had said that none
        of it was true because he had been afraid and that he didn't
        want to go home to his father's but wanted to stay with his
        mother.  And he clung to his (maternal) grandmother, crying his
        heart out.'  What credibility can such an interview have?  One
        of the statements obtained under duress certainly does not fit:
        according to [interview record] no. 2873, Jan stated that he
        had never seen his father naked.  The notary himself told
        Louis De Lentdecker: 'It is said I used to stand around naked
        in front of them.  There were evenings when the children would
        come rushing into the bathroom while I was having a bath.  When
        that happened, I would send them out straight away.'
        Interviewed by [MN], a psychiatrist, the notary, anxious to
        defend himself, was even more categorical: 'Prior to the
        divorce, there were a few times when the children came upon X
        naked in the bathroom.  It is understandable that the
        children's attention was particularly attracted to the
        genitals.'

        Is it also a coincidence that Detective Sergeant [ZG] and his
        wife were the notary's guests for Easter lunch?

        ·     In the middle of 1984, following a private meeting with
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] and the Advocate-General [YD],
        Professor [MA], a well-known child psychiatrist, is informally
        given the job of studying the criminal case file in detail. To
        this end, Principal Crown Counsel's office sends him the
        various typescripts and tapes of the questioning sessions.
        Professor [MA]'s conclusions are contained in a number of
        reports sent to Principal Crown Counsel and the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal.  His provisional conclusions are
        contained in a report of 22 June - just in time, as judgment
        is due to be given on 27 June.  Principal Crown Counsel [YJ]
        knows that this supplementary report is being drafted, and what
        happens?  Out of the blue, the Third Division of the
        Court of Appeal sits two days early and awards custody to the
        notary, 'without taking into account the documents filed by
        Professor [MA] after the close of the hearing'.  Was the
        Court of Appeal informed that Professor [MA]'s report, which
        was very unfavourable to the notary, might be filed before the
        close of the hearing, and is that why the Third Division sat
        two days early?  What is more, not all Professor [MA]'s reports
        were filed after the close of the hearing.  In fact, the
        Third Division had at least three other reports by
        Professor [MA] at its disposal, all of them to the same effect.
        So the judges are lying in their judgment.  On 6 November 1984
        the case again comes before the court, and this time the
        division relies on a totally different argument in order to
        dismiss Professor [MA]'s reports: 'Despite what he
        (Professor [MA]) appears to believe, he has not been appointed
        by Principal Crown Counsel at this Court to assist the Court
        in any way in relation to this case.'  There are only two
        possibilities: either Professor [MA] was given
        Principal Crown Counsel's office's tapes so that he could study
        them, or else he stole them and must be prosecuted and
        convicted.  If he has not been appointed by the court,
        Professor [MA] is not authorised to be in possession of
        documents from the criminal file.  The courts are therefore
        once again using dirty tricks to give a veneer of honesty to
        an inexcusable judgment.

        ·     On 26 June 1984, to general astonishment, the President
        of the Third Division of the Antwerp Court of Appeal, Mrs [YA],
        together with her fellow judges [YB] and [YC], award custody
        to the notary who stands accused of incest.  However, he can
        exercise his right of custody only under the supervision of his
        parents.  Here we find ourselves faced with the most tortuous
        reasoning: either the notary is to be wholly trusted as far as
        his children are concerned and he can have custody; or he is
        not to be trusted and the children are at risk with him.
        Mrs [YA], however, opted for a hypocritical judgment.  If the
        notary has to be supervised by his parents, he is obviously not
        trustworthy.  And yet he is given custody.  Can anyone make
        head or tail of this?  The Third Division had already moved in
        this direction.  At the hearing on 6 June the notary's parents
        had been asked whether they would be willing to take on this
        onerous responsibility.  To which, of course, they said 'yes'.
        Coincidence or no, it was the only time that the notary's
        parents attended a hearing.  That fact makes it look very much
        like a put-up job.  Had they been told in advance that this
        question was going to be put to them?

        ·     The grandparents are not the only ones to have been given
        information in advance.  On 25 June, two days before judgment
        was officially given, the notary was waiting to pick his
        children up from school.  He already knew that the
        Court of Appeal was going to award him custody.  How could that
        be?

        ·     In the previous article, we mentioned the mother's
        complaint that the detectives constantly twisted her words or
        simply did not write down what she said.  That is not all.
        Statements by eyewitnesses have also been falsified ...

        ·     At a certain point the investigating judge in Malines,
        Mr [YE], a former CVP [Christian People's Party] councillor for
        Willebroeck, appoints Dr [MB] as a (medical) expert.  Dr [MB]
        comes to the same conclusions as Professor [MA]: Jan and Wim
        have been sexually abused.  Dr [MB] warns the
        investigating judge unequivocally: 'It is important to avoid
        aggravating the father's psychological problems and turning him
        into a confirmed homosexual or pederast.'  Despite this, on
        6 November Mrs [YA] and her fellow judges [YB] and [YC]
        confirmed the custody order in favour of the father.  It is the
        most cowardly judgment we have ever read.  The children's
        mother is blamed for not having filed a copy of the report by
        the expert [MB], 'with the result that it is not possible to
        examine its contents'.  But how could the mother have filed
        this report?  She is not even entitled to consult it, let alone
        to study it.  In Belgium the law prevents anyone from obtaining
        any information so long as a judicial investigation is under
        way, because the investigation is secret.  The Court of Appeal
        expressly acknowledges in its judgment that the
        judicial investigation is still under way, and yet Mrs [YA]
        blames the mother for failing to file this report!  When it is
        for Principal Crown Counsel's office to file an expert's
        report!  Despite the fact that the investigating judge [YE] has
        been in possession of Dr [MB]'s report since the end of August,
        we read in the Third Division's judgment that
        'Principal Crown Counsel's office did not consider it necessary
        to inform the Court of this fact'.  Why did
        Principal Crown Counsel's office refuse to forward this crucial
        expert report to the Court of Appeal?  Because it was too
        unfavourable to Mr X?  However that may be, Mrs [YA] put her
        name to a mass of legal nonsense.

        ·     On 5 September 1984 Louis De Lentdecker publishes his
        first article on the incest case under the title, 'Justice goes
        mad.  A young woman fights for her children'.  Very shortly
        afterwards the Advocate-General [YD] summons De Lentdecker by
        telephone.  As De Lentdecker comments in his second article,
        on 28 September, 'It is rare for a judge or Crown Counsel to
        summon a journalist to an interview in connection with pending
        legal proceedings.'

        The following extract from De Lentdecker's article is also
        telling: 'When I asked why the court had not appointed
        three experts to look into the case from the psychiatric,
        medical and forensic points of view, the Advocate-General
        replied, and I quote his exact words, "These kids (i.e. Wim and
        Jan) have already had to drop their trousers too much for all
        sorts of examinations.  The best thing is to leave them in
        peace."  When I retorted that the court had, however, appointed
        an expert (De Lentdecker is referring to Dr [MB]) and that his
        report had barely been raised if at all, presumably because it
        contained damning findings as regards the father, the
        Advocate-General replied: "It is not true that the
        expert report ordered by the court damns the father.  In any
        event, I do not know what it says.  Besides, the man's findings
        are not valid - he completed his examination in five days."'
        What crass bias on the part of the Advocate-General [YD] is
        revealed in those quotations.  And what on earth could have
        made him take a journalist to task in this way?  That is not
        one of his duties.  The Advocate-General [YD] has since very
        properly been removed from this case for having exceeded his
        authority and he has been replaced by the
        Senior Advocate-General [YK].

        ...

        There are also a few positive developments.  On
        Thursday 26 June the Ninth Division of the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal upheld the October 1985 judgment of the
        Malines Criminal Court, which had acquitted the mother on the
        charge of removing the children from the notary's custody.  The
        important thing about that case, apart from the mother's
        acquittal, is that the court duly took into account the
        evidence of Professor [MA] and the court-appointed expert [MB],
        who both testified under oath at the hearing that the children
        had indeed been sexually abused.  The bench in this case was
        composed of judges other than [YA], [YB] and [YC], and
        Principal Crown Counsel was not [YJ]."

21.     The applicants published their third article on
18 September 1986.  It contained the following:

        "...

        In this article we reproduce photographs, drawings and
        quotations which we would have preferred not to publish.  Most
        of these documents have been in our possession from the outset,
        but we did not want to run the risk of being accused of
        sensationalism.  The courts are likewise in possession of this
        irrefutable evidence, and it is precisely because the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal and Youth Court refuse to have regard
        to it that we find ourselves obliged to publish it.

        The astonishment, anger and incredulity our readers feel are
        fully shared by us.  Astonishment that such a thing is
        possible; anger because it is allowed; and incredulity because
        the ultimate guarantee of our democracy, an independent system
        of justice, has been undermined at its very roots.  This is
        why, for the sake of the children Wim and Jan, we are
        publishing evidence which we would rather have left to rot
        under lock and key in cupboards in our archives.

                                            Guy Mortier
                                               Editor

        On Tuesday 2 September a Youth Court judge, Mrs [YL], made an
        interim order in the scandalous incest case involving an
        Antwerp notary.  As everyone knows, this tragedy is being
        played out in the most highly placed financial spheres in the
        country, against the background of extreme-right-wing circles
        in Flanders.  The Antwerp notary is accused by his wife of
        having sexually abused his two little boys, whom we are calling
        Wim and Jan, of having physically ill-treated them and of
        continuing to ill-treat them. The Youth Court judge has now
        decided that the father should be awarded custody of his
        children, or rather should retain custody, since he had already
        been given it, in defiance of any concept of justice, by the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal.  Yet the mother, who has not been
        accused of anything, and who has already been twice acquitted
        on a charge of libelling the notary, is not allowed to see her
        children more than once a month.

        ...

        This inexplicable judgment once again stands reason on its
        head.  The case file is getting thicker and thicker and
        contains numerous medical certificates, horrifying drawings by
        the children of being raped by their father, photographs of
        anal irritations and marks left on the children's bodies after
        blows from a cudgel - not to mention detailed psychiatric
        reports on the children: one by the court expert [MB], five by
        Professor [MA], an eminent Louvain paediatrician, and two,
        including a very up-to-date one, by Professor [MC], who
        recently examined the children in the greatest secrecy.  Each
        time, it emerges clearly that the two children have been
        sexually and physically abused.  Why does the Youth Court judge
        [YL] refuse to take account of this solid evidence in her
        judgment, especially as not one of the medical reports
        questions that there has been physical abuse?  Does Mr X's
        family really have so much influence and money that the Antwerp
        courts are incapable of giving an independent ruling?

        It is not for the press to usurp the role of the judiciary, but
        in this outrageous case it is impossible and unthinkable that
        we should remain silent.  Up to now, we have dealt with this
        incest case as sensitively as possible.  Now that the courts
        have definitively taken a wrong turning, we feel obliged, in
        the interests of the children, to reveal more details, however
        horrible and distasteful they may be for the reader.

        ...

        On what evidence did the Youth Court judge [YL] base her
        interim order?  According to an article (the first of several)
        in Het Volk, the source of which appears to be the notary
        himself, [YL] allegedly based the interim order on a report by
        three experts she had appointed.  According to Het Volk, that
        report makes it clear that 'there can never have been any
        question of any sexual abuse'.  The least that can be said is
        that Het Volk has been misinformed (indeed, it has since gone
        back on its first article).  What exactly is the truth?

        Three court-appointed experts, Dr [MI], Dr [MJ] and Dr [MK],
        had Wim and Jan for observation during the holidays at the
        Algemeen Kinderziekenhuis Antwerpen ("the AKA" [a
        paediatric hospital]).  Their report is not yet ready and
        therefore has certainly not yet been filed.  The
        Youth Court judge and the parties have nothing in writing from
        them.  The Youth Court judge [YL] has therefore rushed a
        decision through even before the experts' report is finished.
        This procedure in itself appears extremely suspect.  But what
        is worse is that it leaves the mother completely defenceless.
        Since there is nothing official on paper, she cannot appeal
        against the Youth Court judge's decision.

        Secondly, contrary to what is suggested, the three doctors
        referred to are not independent experts.  Dr [MJ] and Dr [MK]
        work under Dr [MI] at the AKA.  It is therefore difficult for
        them to challenge their superior's findings.  At the AKA these
        two doctors are not known for being the kind to put a spoke in
        their boss's wheel.

        Thirdly, there is the question whether it was advisable to put
        Dr [MI] in charge of the team of experts.  We do not wish to
        prejudge the report before knowing what it contains, but is it
        not singularly unfortunate that a person belonging to the same
        ideological camp as the extreme-right-wing notary should have
        been appointed in this case, which is already so politicised?
        Dr [MI] is married to the daughter of [ZH], who was a governor
        during the war.  Readers will also remember that Mr X's family
        has a very close relationship with 'blackshirt' circles.
        Dr [MI] also boasts, in front of hospital staff, that he
        supports the apartheid regime in South Africa, just like Mr X's
        family.  This is the same Dr [MI] who, some time ago, treated
        a maladjusted child by enrolling him in the extreme-right-wing
        Vlaams Nationaal Jeugdverbond (VNJ), just to teach him some
        discipline.  Everyone is entitled to their political opinions,
        but in this sensitive case it would have been reassuring to see
        a less politically charged expert appointed.

        Just as inexplicable is the fact that the Youth Court judge
        [YL] keeps Mrs [ZI] on as the Child Protection Department
        officer attached to the court.  Judge [YL] has to rely very
        considerably on the child protection officer for all her
        information, and therefore also for her view of the case; yet
        we have already disclosed that Mr X knows Mrs [ZI] well.
        Moreover, that fact appears in an interview record dated
        6 October 1984.  In this interview the notary repeatedly cites
        Mrs [ZI] as one of the people whom the courts can ask to
        testify to his basic kindheartedness.  Is it really impossible
        to remove from this case everyone who has ideological or
        friendship ties with the X family?

        ...

        How does the notary defend himself against his children's
        accusation that in May he beat Wim with 'a spiked cudgel'?  In
        a very confused way. It emerges from a transcript of the
        children's story and a bailiff's report that he beat Wim on
        14 May.  That day, the notary and his little boys were visiting
        Dr [MJ].  In the presence of his father, Wim told the doctor
        some very compromising things about him.  As soon as they got
        home, the father started beating Wim.  The next day, the notary
        went to see Dr [MJ] on his own and, strangely, said not a word
        about his son's injuries.  It was not until several days later,
        when the photographs were sent to the relevant authorities,
        that he came up with a story about Wim having fallen
        downstairs.  Why did he not say this at the outset?  The
        children confirm to Professor [MC] that Wim was beaten and that
        he did not fall downstairs at all.  So the notary changes tack.
        On 2 June he calls in a bailiff who is a friend of his and who
        draws up a report according to which the children deny
        everything.  Strangely, it is not the bailiff but the father
        himself who questions his little boys.  So this report is
        worthless.

        On 5 June the notary comes up with yet another idea.  A Dr [ML]
        issues a certificate stating that he can find no injuries.
        Which is quite possible, since three weeks have gone by in the
        meantime.  Why does the notary have the fact that there are no
        injuries certified three weeks later, when he originally stated
        that the injuries were caused by a fall downstairs?

        The latest version is that Jan hit Wim.  This figment of the
        imagination comes from the Youth Court judge herself.  There's
        bias for you.

        ...

        The ill-treatment which occurred in May was not an isolated
        incident (as we have already indicated on several occasions).
        As early as 10 January 1984 Dr [MG] sent the following results
        of his examination of four smear tests to a forensic
        medical examiner, Dr [MM]: 'Apart from amorphous matter,
        epithelial and mucous cells, I observed, in three out of the
        four samples, a structure with a triangular head on a long,
        more or less straight tail, which matches the description of
        spermatozoa.  I observed the presence of one such structure in
        two of the three samples, and two in the third.'  Other doctors
        also made the same findings.  Subsequently, Professor [MA] and
        the court expert [MB] reach the conclusion, independently of
        each other, that Wim and Jan have been sexually and physically
        abused.  The latest report is by Professor [MC].  In order to
        supplement an earlier report, this expert examined the children
        on twelve occasions between 1 August 1985 and 31 May 1986 - the
        elder without his mother present, Wim normally in his mother's
        presence because at the beginning it was practically impossible
        to examine him without her.  As Director of 'Kind en Gezin in
        Nood' ['Children and Families in Need'], one of the departments
        of Leuvense Universitaire Ziekenhuizen
        [Louvain University Hospitals], Professor [MC] is one of the
        principal authorities in the field.  In order to remain
        entirely uninfluenced in his work, he expressly decided to
        refuse any form of payment.  His report contains the most
        horrific findings.  According to it, the children have been
        beaten not once but several times with a spiked cudgel.  This
        abuse is, moreover, inflicted as a form of ritual.  Candles are
        lit; sometimes, the father wears a brown uniform and the cudgel
        has a 'sign of the devil' on it.  Through the children,
        Professor [MC] was also able to discover where the father took
        his inspiration from.  He found the sign of the devil in
        Volume I of the Rode Ridder ('The Red Knight')(!), entitled
        De barst in de Ronde Tafel ('The cleft in the Round Table').
        The sign is accompanied by the following text: 'This is the
        symbol of the Prince of Darkness, an unknown magician and
        Grand Master of Black Magic!  Even before the Round Table was
        created, he went away and no one knows where he is today!  He
        devotes his exceptional knowledge and power to everything that
        is evil and negative!  His sole objective is to sow confusion
        and destruction.  He is a symbol of the violence which reigns
        in these times over humanity and justice!'

        Professor [MC] does not mince his words in his report: 'By way
        of conclusion, it can be said that Wim is the victim of
        repeated sexual and physical abuse and that his brother Jan is
        subjected to the same abuse to a lesser degree but, under very
        strong psychological pressure, is becoming increasingly
        psychologically disturbed, hence the drop in his school marks
        and the occasional inconsistencies in what he says in different
        interviews.  In the interests of both children a court order
        should be made immediately to remove them completely and
        permanently from their father's orbit. Any further delay would
        be medically unjustifiable.'

        Appended to the professor's two reports are very precise
        descriptions of the children's injuries, the statements made
        by the children, sinister drawings by Wim and Jan of sex scenes
        with their father (often represented with horns), and
        photographs.  Both reports are in the hands of the experts
        [MI], [MJ] and [MK].  Judge [YL] also has them.  Just as she
        has Professor [MA]'s five reports and the report by the
        court expert [MB].  How can Mrs [YL] maintain that there is no
        evidence?  Do the children have to be beaten or raped before
        her eyes before she believes it?

        ...

        Similar accusations by the children against their father were
        also subsequently recorded by Professor [MA], the
        court expert [MB], the two detective sergeants [ZF] and [ZG]
        in the presence of Wim's schoolteacher, and, lastly,
        Professor [MC].  On the other hand, there is one retraction of
        the statements in an interview (of which there is only a
        single, confused minute on tape) carried out by
        Detective Sergeant [ZJ], since suspended, who intimidated Jan
        with a weapon; one in an interview with
        Detective Sergeants [ZF] and [ZG], at the end of which Jan
        broke down completely (as Louis De Lentdecker happened to
        witness); and one retraction made by Jan to Professor [MC], in
        his father's presence.

        The crucial question remains: is any mother capable of
        inventing all this?  Even more to the point, would
        two young children - they will be 6 and 9 respectively this
        month - be capable of keeping up their accusations for over
        two and a half years if those accusations had been invented and
        forced on them by their mother?  And when could the mother have
        coached her children in accusations such as these?

        It should not be forgotten that since 25 June 1984 the notary
        has had custody of the children by order of the Third Division
        of the Antwerp Court of Appeal.  For more than two years the
        father has had a great deal more influence over these children
        than their mother, who has the right to see her children only
        from time to time - a right of access with which the notary has
        frequently not complied.

        What is more, if the notary has such a clear conscience, why
        does he declare war on anyone who puts legal or other obstacles
        in his path?  Why has he already threatened so many people in
        connection with this case?  In this article we shall mention
        only the most recent threats and acts of intimidation.

        ...

        The case file also contains the report of an interview
        Professor [MA] had on 23 May 1984 with
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] and the Advocate-General [YD].
        We realise how delicate it is to quote from letters that were
        not intended for publication, but needs must when the devil
        drives.  Professor [MA] describes how the interview went:
        'After I had discussed my problem and my request, namely that
        three experts should be appointed, I quickly realised that
        Principal Crown Counsel wished to proceed with the case
        impartially and without prejudging the issues, but that Mr [YD]
        already had a very clear idea of what should be done - "The
        children's story was made up, perhaps fed to them by the
        mother, and the children should be entrusted to the care of
        their grandparents, with the father also being involved in the
        process."  Mr [YD] brushed aside my request for an
        expert report rather brusquely.  In his view, judges had far
        more expertise than doctors in this field, and subjecting the
        children to further expert investigations and interviews could
        only do them more harm.  Principal Crown Counsel was much more
        balanced in his response and considered that an expert report
        was indeed called for.  Moreover, Principal Crown Counsel
        expressed serious reservations about Mr [YD]'s suggestion.  He
        said that the children's paternal grandfather, to whose care
        Mr [YD] proposed entrusting the children, was, and I quote,
        "mad".  At every reception at which he encountered Mr X, he
        would see Mr X senior explaining, very clearly and without
        attempting to disguise his meaning, that Hitler should come
        back to this country.  He added that this impression that the
        grandfather was "mad" was shared generally by all the guests
        at such receptions.  And he expressly told Mr [YD] that he
        would consider it totally unjustified to entrust the children
        to the care of their paternal grandfather.'

        Despite being in possession of this preliminary information,
        the Antwerp courts entrusted the children, at first instance,
        to the care of the notary under the supervision of his 'mad'
        father.  In the course of the meeting with Professor [MA],
        Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] also cast doubt on the notary's
        probity.  Professor [MA] gave the following evidence in his own
        defence before the Ordre des Médecins [Medical Association]:
        'He (Principal Crown Counsel) described how Mr X had been made
        a notary, against the advice of the judicial bodies, on the
        last day in office of the late Mr [ZK] (then
        Minister of Justice) and that, furthermore, in a very short
        space of time (a few years) he had succeeded in transforming
        an almost defunct practice into one with an official profit of
        32 million francs a year.  He obviously doubted whether a
        notary could make such an annual profit by legal and honest
        means in view of the property crisis at the time, and thought
        he remembered that Mr X had already been the subject of legal
        proceedings at the time in connection with his activities as
        a notary.'

        He was right.  In 1984 the notary was even suspended by the
        Disciplinary Board.  Principal Crown Counsel's office (once
        again!) took no account of that penalty.  In the meantime a
        fresh criminal complaint has been lodged against the notary
        alleging forgery.

        The worst thing is the notary's publicly expressed
        Nazi sympathies.  A statement taken by Malines CID shows that
        he calls the genocide of six million Jews an 'American lie'.
        At his wedding the notary and his father gave the Nazi salute
        and struck up the 'Horst-Wessel Song' at the top of their
        voices.

        But the notary goes much further.  He wants to bring his
        children up according to Hitler's principles.  That is why they
        must learn to bear pain and to endure humiliation and fear.
        Hitler himself described a Hitlerite education:

              'My educational philosophy is tough.  The weak must be
              beaten and driven out.  My élite schools will produce
              young people whom the world will fear.  I want young
              people to be violent, imperious, impassive, cruel.  That
              is what young people should be like.  They must be
              capable of bearing pain.  They must not show any weakness
              or tenderness.  Their eyes must shine with the brilliant,
              free look of a beast of prey.  I want my young people to
              be strong and beautiful ...  Then I can build something
              new.'

        There is little to add.  Except to say that it is high time
        that, in the interests of the children, the
        medical certificates, the reports and evidence produced by the
        court expert, the bailiff and the child psychiatrists should
        at last be taken seriously and that a decision in this case be
        given on the basis of facts and not on the basis of the
        influential status of one of the parties.  Public confidence
        in the judiciary is at stake."

        The article was illustrated with what the applicants described
as photos of injuries sustained by "Wim" in May, two drawings said to
be by "Jan" and another said to be by "Wim"; it also contained a
transcript of part of Detective Sergeant [ZB]'s alleged questioning of
"Jan" on 6 March 1984.

22.     On 6 November 1986 the fourth article by Mr De Haes and
Mr Gijsels appeared.  It read as follows:

        "...

        Last Thursday the Wim and Jan case took a dramatic legal turn.
        On an application by Principal Crown Counsel [YM], the
        Court of Cassation withdrew the X case from the Antwerp court
        and transferred it to the Ghent tribunal [de première instance]
        in the hope that the Ghent magistrats would adopt a less biased
        approach.  It is certainly none too soon.  The battle between
        the legal and medical professions in the Wim and Jan case had
        reached a climax.  In a final attempt to make the
        Antwerp magistrats see reason, four eminent experts sent a
        joint letter to Principal Crown Counsel [YJ], declaring on
        their honour that they were 100% convinced that Mr X's children
        were the victims of sexual and physical abuse.  The
        professional competence of these four experts cannot be
        questioned - even by the Antwerp magistrats.  They are
        Professor [MD] (Professor of Paediatrics at UIA
        [Antwerp University Institution], Medical Director of the
        Algemeen Kinderziekenhuis Antwerpen and Director of the
        Antwerp Vertrouwensartscentrum [medical reception centre for
        abused children]); Professor [MC] (Professor of Paediatrics at
        Louvain C[atholic] U[niversity], Head of the
        Gasthuisberg [University Hospital] Paediatric Clinic in Louvain
        and President of the National Council on Child Abuse);
        Professor [MA] (Professor of Child and Youth Psychiatry at
        Gasthuisberg [Hospital], Louvain C[atholic] U[niversity], who
        was appointed by Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] to study the
        case); and Dr [MB] (a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst,
        appointed as an expert by the court).

        With their letter they enclosed a note listing ten pieces of
        evidence, any one of which on its own would, in any other case,
        have led to criminal proceedings or even an arrest.  The aim
        of these scientists was clear.  They were seeking from the
        courts a temporary 'protective measure' whereby the children
        would have been admitted to one of the three [medical
        reception centres in Flanders for abused children] pending a
        final court ruling.  There was no response.  The relevant
        magistrats did not react.  The Ordre des Médecins, however, did
        - it forbade Professors [MA] and [MC] to voice their opinions.
        Yet again the messenger is being shot without anyone listening
        to the message.

        Politicians also reacted.  The Justice Minister, Jean Gol,
        asked to see the file and is following the case closely but is
        powerless to intervene because of the constitutional separation
        of powers.  And the MEPs Jef Ulburghs, Anne-Marie Lizin ... and
        Pol Staes ... have laid a draft resolution before the
        European Parliament requesting a proper investigation and
        urgent measures to put an end to the children's dangerous
        predicament.

        The public are finding the case harder and harder to 'swallow'.
        The Justice Minister's office is inundated with dozens of
        indignant letters.  The weekly silent demonstrations on the
        steps of the Antwerp law courts continue and last week, during
        Monday night, posters were stuck up all over the centre of town
        revealing Mr X's surname and forename.  The poster campaign,
        which aroused mixed feelings among journalists and lawyers, has
        given a new dimension to the controversy surrounding the
        X case.

        ..."

23.     On 27 November 1986 the applicants' fifth article appeared.
It read as follows:

        "...

        Our prediction of a fortnight ago that the agonisingly slow
        progress being made in the Wim and Jan case was likely to leave
        the case stranded in the Antwerp courts has come true.  In the
        teeth of all the evidence, the Court of Cassation has held that
        the Antwerp judiciary cannot be accused of any bias in this
        incest case and that the whole case can therefore continue to
        be dealt with in Antwerp.

        In parallel with the Court of Cassation's decision there have
        been some remarkable events. The notary Mr X, so called in
        order to protect the identities of Wim and Jan, now shows
        himself in public and is giving interviews, sometimes even
        accompanied by his children.  The fact that his name (and
        therefore the names of his little boys) now appears in the
        press does not appear to bother him.

        Another consequence is that the media are now breaking several
        months' silence, and some editors have really gone off the
        rails.

        It is very worrying, for example, that certain daily and
        weekly newspapers are trying to play down the X case, depicting
        it as a run-of-the-mill divorce case in which both parties are
        hurling the most disgusting accusations at each other.  In
        these really not very cheering proceedings the 'divorce' aspect
        is only an insignificant detail, and moreover is quite another
        matter.  Indeed, we have not published a single word on that
        subject, nor do we wish to do so, since it is a purely private
        matter.

        The real issues in the case with which we are concerned are
        very serious accusations of incest and child abuse, supported
        by medical certificates and examinations, and the extremely
        questionable manner in which those accusations are being dealt
        with by the courts.  This state of affairs is no longer part
        of two people's private life but concerns us all.  Moreover,
        the case of Mr X is simply the tip of the iceberg and is
        representative of other incest cases.  It is for that reason,
        and that reason only, that we have written about it.

        In the meantime, certain daily and weekly newspapers are
        indulging in the most unsavoury sensationalism and, without
        really knowing the case, allowing the notary whole pages in
        which to proclaim his version of the facts.  Of course, freedom
        of expression is sacred.  But have we ever pushed Wim and Jan's
        mother into the foreground?  Have we ever published her opinion
        of the case?  No.  Humo's reports on Wim and Jan have always
        been based on our own investigations alone and on innumerable
        authentic documents.

        We have not written a single word that was not based on the
        reports of doctors, paediatricians, court experts and a
        bailiff.  Since our first 'Incest authorised in Flanders'
        article came out as far back as 26 June, the notary's family
        has tried to get Humo's management round the dinner table to
        'discuss' the case.  The editorial staff have always taken a
        consistent line: no discussion - send us documents proving us
        wrong and we will publish them.  We also made this offer on

        [the television programme] Argus, but up to now Mr X has not
        got round to sending us his 'equally numerous pieces of expert
        evidence in rebuttal'.  For all his assertions in Knack and
        De Nieuwe Gazet that these exist, it is strange that those
        papers' journalists have yet to receive this rebutting
        evidence.  All the notary has tried to do so far is to muddy
        the waters and present the case as if it were a matter of his
        word against his wife's, an argument along the lines of 'Oh no,
        I didn't' and 'Oh yes, you did'.

        ...

        In the 5 November issue of Knack the notary reveals yet another
        new discovery: the photographs were not taken by the bailiff
        but by his ex-wife, and were faked with 'red ointment'.  We
        repeat: if the bruises were caused by falling downstairs, why
        would they need to be faked with red ointment?  It is true that
        his wife took photographs, but in the presence of the bailiff.
        And they were expressly annexed to the bailiff's report.

        But irrespective of that, the relevant point is that the
        bailiff did take photographs himself.

        ...

        Nothing but red ointment?  The whole thing rigged so as to be
        more visible?

        ...

        Besides, those are not the only photos of injuries to have been
        taken.  Dr [MC] also took numerous photographs of the injuries
        and of an 'abnormal irritation of the penis and the peri-
        anal region', and they were annexed to his reports.  There is
        no evidence, the notary asserts.  Will it really be necessary
        to publish a photo of his little boys' sore anuses?

        The court, for which the bailiff's report was drawn up and the
        photographs taken, does not appear to have entertained any
        doubts as to their authenticity and added them to the case file
        four months ago without comment.  With good reason.  [ZM], the
        bailiff, took the photos with a polaroid camera in the presence
        of witnesses.  That type of camera takes just seconds to
        produce a photograph. It is not possible to tamper with them.
        Mr X knows very well why he has not instituted proceedings
        against the bailiff and why he has published his insinuations
        only in certain newspapers and magazines.

        This is not the first time that the notary has tried bluff
        tactics.  The following extract from Knack is telling: 'He
        freely admits that he has put pressure on several doctors,
        beaten up his brother-in-law and, after receiving a tip-off
        from inside the Humo editorial team, issued threats against
        Albert Frère's magazine in order to try to get his name deleted
        from the articles, but he does not see any of this as
        intimidation and considers that in his unhappy situation,
        others would have behaved much worse.'

        The allegation that Mr X tried to have his name deleted from
        Humo is one of his many lies.  At that time he was asking for
        no more and no less than complete censorship: the article was
        not to be published!  For our part, it has never for a moment
        even crossed our minds to mention the name of the notary and
        his family.  That name has therefore never appeared in a single
        draft, not even a preliminary one.  For Humo it has never been
        a matter of attacking an individual (and in this connection we
        dissociate ourselves completely from the billposters who are
        plastering the notary's name all over Antwerp) but of the
        dubious way in which the case has been handled.

        ...

        Mr X delights in telling everyone that he knows that the courts
        and the officially appointed experts are on his side.  'He told
        us that the report by the three experts from the AKA (appointed
        by the Youth Court judge [YL] - Ed.) would be published on
        Wednesday, but that he could already reveal that the report
        proves his total innocence' (Algemeen Dagblad, 1.11.86).

        'This week he hopes to distribute the reports by Dr [MI],
        Dr [MK] and Dr [MJ], appointed as experts by the Youth Court
        a year ago(!). "They are unanimous and totally favourable to
        me" [he says] ...' (Knack, 5.11.86)

        Mr X was so positive that we fell into the trap (see our
        previous article) of believing that the reports cleared him of
        all suspicion.  Since at that point the reports had not been
        filed, we asked: 'Does the notary have a hitherto unsuspected
        gift of clairvoyance or has he had an opportunity to consult
        the reports even before they are filed with the Youth Court?'

        We don't know.  But what we do know is that in his interviews
        the notary is cocking a snook at the truth.  The three reports
        are not entirely favourable to him.  The conclusions of the
        report by the psychiatrist [MK], wholly confused though they
        indeed are, explicitly indicate that the evidence on the case
        file raises a strong presumption of sexual and physical abuse
        but that there is no absolute, irrefutable proof.  Using the
        conditional mood, [MK] adds that Wim and Jan's stories could
        have been the product of 'coaching', not to say spoon-feeding,
        by the mother.  In other words, [MK] is saying that in fact he
        doesn't know.  At all events, one can hardly say that this
        report is entirely favourable to Mr X.  The notary has also
        lied to the press about other things.  According to him, the
        children are afraid of Malines, the mother's environment -
        whereas according to [MK]'s report, one of the children is very
        positive towards his mother and very negative towards his
        father.  The other child sometimes would prefer to stay in
        Antwerp and at other times to live in Malines.  Moreover,
        [MK]'s opinion is that the children should be placed with a
        foster family, with access for both parents.

        Last week Dr [MJ]'s expert report also came in.  A key witness
        in relation to the ill-treatment of 16 May, [MJ] concludes that
        it never took place.  Yet another sample of the expert's
        wisdom: on the one hand, he states in his report that the
        children want to stay with their mother but, on the other, he
        recommends placing them with the father after the divorce, with
        limited access for the mother.  As an immediate step, he
        recommends, just like [MK], that the children should be placed
        in a neutral setting, with generous access for both parents.
        No doubt you have to be an expert in order to understand so
        many contradictions.

        ...

        In contrast to the contradictory and inconsistent reports of
        these doctors, there are the irrefutable, unequivocal reports
        of Professor [MA]:

        'Given that the children have again been subjected to
        sexual abuse by their father, I consider that any further
        contact between the father and the children would for the time
        being be extremely prejudicial to the children's subsequent
        development, and the situation is particularly dangerous for
        them in that their mental development and that of their
        personalities are seriously jeopardised.  This being so, I
        consider it necessary to intervene as a matter of urgency under
        section 36 (2) (children at risk) of the Child Protection Act.'
        (August 1984)

        The court expert [MB], appointed by the
        investigating judge [YE], stated:

        'All the examinations of Wim and Jan lead to the same
        conclusion: the two children describe sexual contact with
        Daddy.  Wim is in the midst of assimilating the psychological
        trauma into his subconscious.  For Jan this process of
        assimilation is more difficult.  The children's statements
        appear credible and I have set out a series of arguments on
        this point.'  (August 1984)

        Dr [MC], who has examined the children twenty-two times (and
        not twelve as the notary, lying again, states in
        De Nieuwe Gazet) and has found non-accidental injuries on
        seventeen occasions, states:

        'In the interests of the two children there should be an
        immediate court order withdrawing them totally and permanently
        from their father's orbit.  Any further delay would be
        medically unjustifiable.' (May 1986)

        It remains a disgrace that the Antwerp courts refuse to take
        this evidence into account."

        The article was illustrated with two other drawings said to be
by the children; it also contained what the applicants said was an
extract from a report by the bailiff [ZM] describing bruises on
both legs of the younger boy.

24.     Following the judgment of 29 September 1988 (see paragraph 11
above) Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels published an article on
14 October 1988 that contained the following:

        "...

        On 29 September the Brussels tribunal de première instance gave
        judgment in the case brought against Humo by the judges of the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal as a result of our articles about the
        notary Mr X.  Humo lost all along the line.  This judgment is
        not only desperately short on reasoning but also completely
        unsatisfactory.  The Vice-President, [YF], and the other
        judges, [YG] and [YH], dealt with the case carelessly.  They
        were not willing to listen to Humo's very strong arguments,
        while the debate about the relationship between the media and
        the judiciary, which was important for the press as a whole,
        was purely and simply brushed aside.  We wonder whether their
        Lordships actually read Humo's submissions.

        The Brussels tribunal de première instance chose the easy way
        out, holding it against us that the 'insinuations and offensive
        accusations' against the judges 'have no foundation except
        gossip and malicious distortions'.  What the whole of Flanders
        knows, except apparently Messrs [YF], [YG] and [YH], is that
        our doubts as to the integrity of the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal magistrats were (and still are) based
        on a number of medical reports, which we have always cited
        verbatim, so there can be no question of malicious distortion.
        Are journalists acting unlawfully where they confine themselves
        to verbatim extracts from medical reports and to known and
        proved facts?

        We are also accused of sullying the Antwerp judges' private
        lives.  But at no time has Humo ever brought up anything to do
        with the judges' private lives.  We have kept, strictly and
        deliberately, to those matters that were directly linked to the
        case and were capable of verification in history books and
        press articles.  How can matters which are so manifestly and
        indisputably in the public domain suddenly be considered
        aspects of private life?

        Further on in the reasons for their judgment, Judges [YF], [YG]
        and [YH] say bluntly that we '[accept] as true, without more,
        the statement made by Mr X's former wife and her expert adviser
        (Professor [MA])'.  We care not a jot about Mr X's former
        wife's statement.  We have always concentrated solely on the
        medical findings and reports of innumerable doctors.

        Yet the tribunal de première instance simply skirts round these
        facts.

        Furthermore, one of the essential aspects of Mr X's case has
        cleverly been evaded: the conflict between the
        medical profession and the judiciary.  Journalists have a duty
        to strive 'to respect the truth', says the court - a dictum to
        which we gladly subscribe, but judges are under the same duty.

        The judgment of the tribunal de première instance becomes
        positively Kafkaesque when it attacks the medical reports by
        simply referring to the judgments of the
        Court of Appeal judges, who deliberately failed to take those
        reports seriously - precisely the attitude that Humo has
        condemned.  For which we had our reasons.  But what do the
        judges of the Brussels tribunal de première instance do?  They
        use their fellow judges' judgments as evidence against Humo.
        In other words, the truth is to be found only in the judgments
        of the Antwerp judges.  If that is the case, anyone who
        challenges a judgment, including in the press, runs the risk
        of being put in the wrong since a judge is always right.  It
        is not the truth but 'the official truth and nothing but the
        official truth' which will be published in our newspapers in
        future.  Is that what people want?

        Clearly, the Brussels judges [YF], [YG] and [YH], did not
        manage to give judgment with the necessary detachment and
        independence on their fellow judges of the
        Antwerp Court of Appeal.  They are thus adhering to the line
        of biased judgments which we have condemned in the case of
        Mr X.  Humo will accordingly be appealing against this
        judgment."

II.     Relevant domestic law

25.     The first paragraph of the former Article 18 (currently
Article 25) of the Constitution provides:

        "The press shall be free; there shall never be any censorship;
        no security can be demanded of writers, publishers or
        printers."

26.     The relevant provisions of the Civil Code are worded as
follows:

                             Article 1382

        "Any act committed by a person that causes damage to another
        shall render the person through whose fault the damage was
        caused liable to make reparation for it."

                             Article 1383

        "Everyone shall be liable for damage he has caused not only
        through his own act but also through his failure to act or his
        negligence."

        According to legal writers and the case-law, an offence against
the criminal law constitutes per se a fault within the meaning of
Article 1382 of the Civil Code (see L. Cornelis, Beginselen van het
Belgische buitencontractuele aansprakelijkheidsrecht, p. 62, no. 41;
judgments of the Court of Cassation of 31 January 1980
(Pasicrisie 1980, I, p. 622) and 13 February 1988
(Rechtskundig Weekblad 1988-89, col. 159)).  Articles 1382 and 1383 of
the Civil Code accordingly provide a basis for civil proceedings for
abuse of freedom of the press (judgment of the Court of Cassation of
4 December 1952, Pasicrisie 1953, I, p. 215).  A publication is
regarded as being an abuse where it breaches a criminal provision
(without it being necessary, however, for all the ingredients of the
offence to have been made out); disseminates ill-considered accusations
without sufficient evidence; employs gratuitously offensive terms or
exaggerated expressions; or fails to respect private life or the
individual's privacy.

27.     Articles 443 to 449 and 561, 7, of the Criminal Code make
defamation and insults punishable.  By Article 450, these offences,
where committed against individuals, can be prosecuted only on a
complaint by the injured party or, if that person has died, his spouse,
descendants or statutory heirs up to and including the third degree.
Articles 275 and 276 of the same Code make it a punishable offence to
insult members of the ordinary courts.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

28.     Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels applied to the Commission on
12 March 1992.  They alleged that the judgments against them had
infringed their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in
Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10) and that it had been based on
an erroneous interpretation of Article 8 (art. 8).  They also
maintained that they had not had a fair trial by an independent and
impartial tribunal within the meaning of Article 6 (art. 6).

29.     The Commission declared the application (no. 19983/92)
admissible on 24 February 1995.  In its report of 29 November 1995
(Article 31) (art. 31), it expressed the opinion that there had been
a violation of Article 10 (art. 10) (six votes to three) and
Article 6 (art. 6) (unanimously) of the Convention but not of
Article 8 (art. 8).  The full text of the Commission's opinion and of
the two dissenting opinions contained in the report is reproduced as
an annex to this judgment (1).
_______________
Note by the Registrar

1.  For practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed
version of the judgment (in Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-I),
but a copy of the Commission's report is obtainable from the registry.
_______________

FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT

30.     In their memorial the Government asked the Court to "hold that
there ha[d] been no violation of Articles 6 and 10 of the Convention
(art. 6, art. 10)".

31.     In their memorial the applicants asked the Court to "hold that
there ha[d] been a violation of Article 10 and Article 6 of the
Convention (art. 10, art. 6)".

AS TO THE LAW

I.      ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION (art. 10)

32.     The applicants alleged that the judgment of the
Brussels tribunal de première instance and Court of Appeal against them
had entailed a breach of Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10), which
provides:

        "1.   Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.  This
        right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and
        impart information and ideas without interference by public
        authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article (art. 10)
        shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of
        broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

        2.    The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it
        duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such
        formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are
        prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society,
        in the interests of national security, territorial integrity
        or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for
        the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the
        reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure
        of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the
        authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

33.     The judgment against the applicants indisputably amounted to
an "interference" with their exercise of their freedom of expression.
It was common ground that the interference had been "prescribed by law"
and had pursued at least one of the legitimate aims referred to in
Article 10 para. 2 (art. 10-2) - the protection of the reputation or
rights of others, in this instance the rights of the judges and
Advocate-General who brought proceedings.

        The Court agrees.  It must therefore ascertain whether the
interference was "necessary in a democratic society" for achieving that
aim.

34.     Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels pointed out that their articles had
been written against the background of a public debate, reported by
other newspapers, on incest in Flanders and on the way in which the
judiciary was dealing with the problem.  Before writing them, they had
undertaken sufficient research and sought the opinion of several
experts, and that had enabled them to base the articles on objective
evidence.  The only reason why they had not produced that evidence in
court was that they had not wished to disclose their sources of
information.  The refusal of the Brussels courts of first instance and
appeal to admit in evidence the documents they had mentioned had
accordingly in itself entailed a breach of Article 10 (art. 10).

        Their criticisms of the judges and Advocate-General concerned
could not, they continued, justify a penalty merely on the ground that
the criticisms were at odds with decisions of the
Antwerp Court of Appeal.  The determination of the "judicial truth" in
a court decision did not mean that any other opinion had to be
considered wrong when the exercise of the freedom of the press was
being reviewed.  That, however, was exactly what had happened in the
instant case, although the impugned articles had been based on
sufficient objective information.  In short, the interference
complained of had not been necessary in a democratic society.

35.     The Commission accepted this argument in substance.

36.     The Government maintained that, far from stimulating discussion
of the functioning of the system of justice in Belgium, the impugned
press articles had contained only personal insults directed at the
Antwerp judges and Advocate-General and had therefore not deserved the
enhanced protection to which political views were entitled.  No
immunity could be claimed for opinions expressed by journalists merely
on the ground that the accuracy of those opinions could not be
verified.  In the instant case the authors of the articles had incurred
a penalty for having exceeded the limits of acceptable criticism.  It
would have been quite possible to challenge the way the courts had
dealt with Mr X's cases without at the same time making a personal
attack on the judges and Advocate-General concerned and accusing them
of bias and of showing "a lack of independence".  In that connection,
it also had to be borne in mind that the duty of discretion laid upon
magistrats prevented them from reacting and defending themselves as,
for example, politicians did.

37.     The Court reiterates that the press plays an essential role in
a democratic society.  Although it must not overstep certain bounds,
in particular in respect of the reputation and rights of others, its
duty is nevertheless to impart - in a manner consistent with its
obligations and responsibilities - information and ideas on all matters
of public interest, including those relating to the functioning of the
judiciary.

        The courts - the guarantors of justice, whose role is
fundamental in a State based on the rule of law - must enjoy public
confidence.  They must accordingly be protected from destructive
attacks that are unfounded, especially in view of the fact that judges
are subject to a duty of discretion that precludes them from replying
to criticism.

        In this matter as in others, it is primarily for the
national authorities to determine the need for an interference with the
exercise of freedom of expression.  What they may do in this connection
is, however, subject to European supervision embracing both the
legislation and the decisions applying it, even where they have been
given by an independent court (see, mutatis mutandis, the
Prager and Oberschlick v. Austria judgment of 26 April 1995, Series A
no. 313, pp. 17-18, paras. 34-35).

38.     The Court notes at the outset that the judgment against the
applicants was based on all the articles published by them between
26 June and 27 November 1986 on the subject of the X case.

        This must be taken into account for the purpose of assessing
the scale and necessity of the interference complained of.

39.     The articles contain a mass of detailed information about the
circumstances in which the decisions on the custody of Mr X's children
were taken.  That information was based on thorough research into the
allegations against Mr X and on the opinions of several experts who
were said to have advised the applicants to disclose them in the
interests of the children.

        Even the Antwerp Court of Appeal considered that Mr X's wife
and parents-in-law, who had been prosecuted for criminal libel, "had
no good reason to doubt the truth of the allegations" in question
(see paragraph 8 above).

        That being so, the applicants cannot be accused of having
failed in their professional obligations by publishing what they had
learned about the case.  It is incumbent on the press to impart
information and ideas of public interest.  Not only does the press have
the task of imparting such information and ideas: the public also has
a right to receive them (see, among other authorities, the Jersild
v. Denmark judgment of 23 September 1994, Series A no. 298, p. 23,
para. 31, and the Goodwin v. the United Kingdom judgment of
27 March 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-II, p. 500,
para. 39).  This was particularly true in the instant case in view of
the seriousness of the allegations, which concerned both the fate of
young children and the functioning of the system of justice in Antwerp.
The applicants, moreover, made themselves quite clear in this regard
when they wrote in their article of 18 September 1986: "It is not for
the press to usurp the role of the judiciary, but in this outrageous
case it is impossible and unthinkable that we should remain silent"
(see paragraph 21 above).

40.     It should be noticed, moreover, that the judges and
Advocate-General who brought proceedings did not, either in their writ
or in their submissions to the Brussels courts of first instance and
appeal, cast doubt on the information published about the fate of the
X children, other than on the statement that the case in question had
been withdrawn from the Antwerp courts (see paragraphs 22 and 23
above).  However, the weight of the latter item in comparison with the
impugned articles as a whole and the fact that the applicants corrected
it themselves, mean that, on its own, that incident cannot put in doubt
the reliability of the journalists' work.

41.     In actual fact the judges and Advocate-General complained
mainly of the personal attacks to which they considered they had been
subjected in the journalists' comments on the events in the custody
proceedings in respect of the X children.  The applicants, in accusing
them of marked bias and cowardice, had, they maintained, made remarks
about them that were defamatory and constituted an attack on their
honour.  The applicants had furthermore accused two of them of
pronounced extreme-right-wing sympathies and had thus grossly infringed
their right to respect for their private life.

        The Brussels courts accepted that contention in substance
(see paragraphs 11 and 14 above).  The Court of Appeal essentially
found the applicants guilty of having made unproved statements about
the private life of the judges and Advocate-General who had brought
proceedings and of having drawn defamatory conclusions by alleging that
they had not been impartial in their handling of the case of the
X children.  Its judgment says:

        "In the instant case the appellants dared to go one step
        further by maintaining, without a shred of evidence, that they
        were entitled to infer the alleged bias from the very
        personalities of the judges and the Advocate-General and thus
        interfere with private life, which is without any doubt
        unlawful.

        Furthermore, the purpose of the present proceedings is not to
        decide what ultimately was the objective truth in the case that
        the original plaintiffs finally determined at the time but
        merely whether the comments in issue are to be considered
        defamatory, which is not in the slightest doubt."
        (see paragraph 14 above)

42.     The Court reiterates that a careful distinction needs to be
made between facts and value judgments.  The existence of facts can be
demonstrated, whereas the truth of value judgments is not susceptible
of proof (see the Lingens v. Austria judgment of 8 July 1986, Series A
no. 103, p. 28, para. 46).

43.     As regards, firstly, the statements concerning the political
sympathies of the judges and Advocate-General who brought proceedings,
it must be noted that the Brussels Court of Appeal held:

        "Even if the appellants believed that certain ideological views
        could be ascribed to the respondents (views which they have
        failed to prove that the respondents held), they cannot in any
        event be permitted purely and simply to infer from those
        views - even if they had been proved - that the judges and the
        Advocate-General were biased and to criticise that bias in
        public." (see paragraph 14 above)

        It is apparent from this that even if the allegations in
question had been accurate, the applicants would not have escaped being
found liable since that finding related not so much to the allegations
reported as to the comments which these inspired the journalists to
make.

44.     Added to the information which the applicants had been able to
gather about Mr X's behaviour towards his children, information which
was in itself capable of justifying the criticism of the decisions
taken by or with the aid of the judges and Advocate-General concerned,
the facts which they believed they were in a position to allege
concerning those persons' political sympathies could be regarded as
potentially lending credibility to the idea that those sympathies were
not irrelevant to the decisions in question.

45.     One of the allusions to the alleged political sympathies was
inadmissible - the one concerning the past history of the father of one
of the judges criticised (see paragraph 19 above).  It is unacceptable
that someone should be exposed to opprobrium because of matters
concerning a member of his family.  A penalty was justifiable on
account of that allusion by itself.

        It was, however, only one of the elements in this case.  The
applicants were convicted for the totality of the accusations of bias
they made against the three judges and the Advocate-General in
question.

46.     In this connection, the Court reiterates that freedom of
expression is applicable not only to "information" or "ideas" that are
favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of
indifference but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State
or any section of the community.  In addition, journalistic freedom
also covers possible recourse to a degree of exaggeration, or even
provocation (see, mutatis mutandis, the Prager and Oberschlick judgment
cited above, p. 19, para. 38).

47.     Looked at against the background of the case, the accusations
in question amount to an opinion, whose truth, by definition, is not
susceptible of proof.  Such an opinion may, however, be excessive, in
particular in the absence of any factual basis, but it was not so in
this instance; in that respect the present case differs from the
Prager and Oberschlick case (see the judgment cited above, p. 18,
para. 37).

48.     Although Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels' comments were without doubt
severely critical, they nevertheless appear proportionate to the stir
and indignation caused by the matters alleged in their articles.  As
to the journalists' polemical and even aggressive tone, which the Court
should not be taken to approve, it must be remembered that Article 10
(art. 10) protects not only the substance of the ideas and information
expressed but also the form in which they are conveyed (see, as the
most recent authority, the Jersild judgment cited above, p. 23,
para. 31).

49.     In conclusion, the Court considers that, regard being had to
the seriousness of the circumstances of the case and of the issues at
stake, the necessity of the interference with the exercise of the
applicants' freedom of expression has not been shown, except as regards
the allusion to the past history of the father of one of the judges in
question (see paragraph 45 above).

        There has therefore been a breach of Article 10 (art. 10).

II.     ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 OF THE CONVENTION
        (art. 6-1)

50.     The applicants also complained of a breach of Article 6
para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1), which provides:

        "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...,
        everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an ...
        impartial tribunal ..."

        They firstly criticised the Brussels tribunal de
première instance and Court of Appeal for having refused to admit in
evidence the documents referred to in the impugned articles or hear at
least some of their witnesses (see paragraphs 10 and 12 above).  This,
they said, had resulted in a basic inequality of arms between, on the
one hand, the judges and the Advocate-General, who were familiar with
the file, and, on the other, the journalists, who with only limited
sources had had to reconstruct the truth.

        Further, in arguing against Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels on the
basis of their article of 14 October 1988 (see paragraph 24 above), the
Brussels Court of Appeal had ruled on matters not before it as the
judges criticised in that article were not parties to the case before
the Court of Appeal and their decision had not been mentioned in the
original writ.  The Court of Appeal had thus taken as a basis a fact
that had not been the subject of adversarial argument and had thereby
departed from due process.

        Lastly, the derogatory terms used in the
Brussels Court of Appeal's judgment showed that there had been a lack
of subjective impartiality.

51.     The Commission shared, in substance, the applicants' opinion
as to the effects of the alleged breaches on equality of arms and due
process.  It did not consider it necessary to express a view on the
Brussels Court of Appeal's impartiality.

52.     The Government submitted that the evidence which the
journalists proposed to submit had been calculated to call in question
the decisions taken in the lawsuit between Mr X and his wife, which was
res judicata.  The Brussels courts had therefore been entitled to
reject it, seeing that the "judicial truth" was sufficiently clear from
the judgments delivered in Mr X's cases.  In short, production of the
evidence in question had been shown not to be decisive in the
instant case, and the Court of Cassation had confirmed that.

        As to the Court of Appeal's reference to the press article of
14 October 1988, it was a superfluous reason, as the judgment against
the applicants rested primarily on other grounds.  The reference to
that article in the submissions of the judges and Advocate-General who
had brought proceedings was not intended to amend their claim but
simply to highlight Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels' relentless hostility.

53.     The Court reiterates that the principle of equality of arms -
a component of the broader concept of a fair trial - requires that each
party must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present his case
under conditions that do not place him at a substantial disadvantage
vis-à-vis his opponent (see, among other authorities, the Ankerl
v. Switzerland judgment of 23 October 1996, Reports 1996-V,
pp. 1565-66, para. 38).

54.     It notes that in their submissions to the Brussels courts of
first instance and appeal the judges and Advocate-General concerned
maintained, in substance and inter alia, that the criticisms made of
them in Humo were not supported by the facts of the case and certainly
not by the four judgments that had been delivered by them or with their
aid in that case, which were otherwise uncontradicted.  They thus
referred, in order to deny that there was any basis for the
journalists' argument, to the content of the case they had themselves
dealt with and of the relevant judgments.

        Coming as it did from the judges and Advocate-General who had
handled the case, that statement had such credibility that it could
hardly be seriously challenged in the courts if the defendants could
not adduce at least some relevant documentary or witness evidence to
that end.

55.     In this respect, the Court does not share the
Brussels Court of Appeal's opinion that the request for production of
documents demonstrated the lack of care with which Mr De Haes and
Mr Gijsels had written their articles.  It considers that the
journalists' concern not to risk compromising their sources of
information by lodging the documents in question themselves was
legitimate (see, mutatis mutandis, the Goodwin judgment cited above,
p. 502, para. 45).  Furthermore, their articles contained such a wealth
of detail about the fate of the X children and the findings of the
medical examinations they had undergone that it could not reasonably
be supposed, without further inquiry, that the authors had not had at
least some relevant information available to them.

56.     It should also be noted that the journalists' argument could
hardly be regarded as wholly unfounded, since even before the judges
and the Advocate-General brought proceedings against the applicants,
the Antwerp tribunal de première instance and Court of Appeal had held
that the defendants in the libel action Mr X had brought against his
wife and parents-in-law had not had any good reason to doubt the truth
of their allegations (see paragraph 8 above).

57.     At all events, the proceedings brought against the applicants
by the judges and the Advocate-General did not relate to the merits of
the judgment in the X case but solely to the question whether in the
circumstances the applicants had been entitled to express themselves
as they had.  It was not necessary in order to answer that question to
produce the whole file of the proceedings concerning Mr X but only
documents which were likely to prove or disprove the truth of the
applicants' allegations.

58.     It was in those terms that Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels made their
application.  They asked the Brussels tribunal de première instance and
Court of Appeal at least to study the opinion of the three professors
whose examinations had prompted the applicants to write their articles
(see paragraph 10 above).  The outright rejection of their application
put the journalists at a substantial disadvantage vis-à-vis the
plaintiffs.  There was therefore a breach of the principle of equality
of arms.

59.     That finding alone constitutes a breach of Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1).  The Court consequently considers it unnecessary to examine
the other complaints raised by the applicants under that provision
(art. 6-1).

III.    APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 50 OF THE CONVENTION (art. 50)

60.     Article 50 of the Convention (art. 50) provides:

        "If the Court finds that a decision or a measure taken by a
        legal authority or any other authority of a High Contracting
        Party is completely or partially in conflict with the
        obligations arising from the ... Convention, and if the
        internal law of the said Party allows only partial reparation
        to be made for the consequences of this decision or measure,
        the decision of the Court shall, if necessary, afford just
        satisfaction to the injured party."

    A.  Pecuniary damage

61.     The applicants sought 113,101 Belgian francs (BEF) in respect
of pecuniary damage.  That sum corresponded to the cost of publishing
the Brussels Court of Appeal's judgment of 5 February 1990 in Humo,
plus "one franc on account" for the publication of the same judgment
in six daily newspapers, which has not yet taken place.

62.     No observations were made by either the Delegate of the
Commission or the Government.

63.     As the publishing of the judgment was a direct consequence of
the wrongful finding against Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels, the Court
considers the claim justified.

    B.  Non-pecuniary damage

64.     The journalists also sought compensation in the amount of
BEF 500,000 each for non-pecuniary damage caused by the adverse
publicity and the psychological ordeals which followed their
conviction.

65.     The Government considered that the Court's judgment would be
sufficient redress for that damage.

        The Delegate of the Commission did not express a view.

66.     In the Court's opinion, the Belgian courts' decisions against
the applicants must have caused them certain unpleasantnesses.  The
finding of a breach of the Convention, however, affords sufficient just
satisfaction in this regard.

    C.  Costs and expenses

67.     Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels sought BEF 851,697 in respect of the
costs and expenses relating to their legal representation, namely:
BEF 332,031 for the proceedings in the domestic courts and BEF 519,666
for those before the Convention institutions, including BEF 179,666 for
translation expenses.

68.     No observations were made by either the Delegate of the
Commission or the Government.

69.     That being so, the Court allows the claim.

    D.  Default interest

70.     According to the information available to the Court, the
statutory rate of interest applicable in Belgium at the date of
adoption of the present judgment is 7% per annum.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT

1.      Holds by seven votes to two that there has been a breach of
        Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10);

2.      Holds unanimously that there has been a breach of Article 6
        para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1);

3.      Holds unanimously that the respondent State is to pay the
        applicants, within three months, 113,101 (one hundred and
        thirteen thousand, one hundred and one) Belgian francs in
        respect of pecuniary damage and 851,697 (eight hundred and
        fifty-one thousand, six hundred and ninety-seven) francs for
        costs and expenses, on which sums simple interest at an
        annual rate of 7% shall be payable from the expiry of the
        above-mentioned three months until settlement;

4.      Holds unanimously that the present judgment in itself
        constitutes sufficient just satisfaction in respect of
        non-pecuniary damage.

        Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public
hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 24 February 1997.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL
        President

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD
        Registrar

        In accordance with Article 51 para. 2 of the Convention
(art. 51-2) and Rule 55 para. 2 of Rules of Court B, the following
separate opinions are annexed to this judgment:

        (a)  partly dissenting opinion of Mr Matscher;

        (b)  partly dissenting opinion of Mr Morenilla.

Initialled: R. R.

Initialled: H. P.

              PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE MATSCHER

                             (Translation)

        I am unable to agree with the majority of the Chamber in so far
as it finds a breach of Article 10 (art. 10).

        Although I fully endorse what the Chamber says on the subject
of freedom of expression, and in particular about the importance of
freedom of the press in a democratic society, I believe that the
Chamber has failed to recognise the limits that this freedom entails,
which are also of importance in a civilised democratic society.
Indeed, the reference in the second paragraph of Article 10 (art. 10-2)
to the "duties and responsibilities" inherent in freedom of the press
seems to carry little weight in the Court's case-law.

        Applying these principles to the present case, I would make the
following observations.

        The applicants were entitled to criticise the decision of the
Antwerp Court of Appeal awarding Mr X custody of his children since the
objective information available to them justified the severest censure
of that decision; having regard to the circumstances of the case, it
was indeed legitimate to ask how the judges in question could have
taken such a decision.

        What I find fault with in the press articles that gave rise to
the decision imposing a penalty on the applicants - albeit a nominal
one - is the insinuation that the judges who gave that decision had
deliberately acted in bad faith because of their political or
ideological sympathies and thus breached their duty of independence and
impartiality, all with the aim of protecting someone whose political
ideas appeared to be similar to those of the judges concerned.  Nothing
justified such an insinuation, even if it had been possible to discover
the impugned judges' political opinions.

        In those circumstances, the interference constituted by the
judgment against the applicants was "necessary" within the meaning of
the second paragraph of Article 10 (art. 10-2) and was not
disproportionate.

             PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE MORENILLA

                             (Translation)

1.      To my regret, I cannot agree with the majority's conclusion as
to the breach of Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10) in this case.
In my opinion, the Belgian civil courts' judgment against the
applicants for defamation was necessary in a democratic society and
proportionate within the meaning of paragraph 2 of Article 10
(art. 10-2).

        In the impugned judgments - of the Brussels tribunal de
première instance, the Brussels Court of Appeal and the
Court of Cassation - the defendants, Mr De Haes and Mr Gijsels, who are
journalists, were found to have acted unlawfully.  They were ordered
to pay each of the four plaintiffs - three judges and an
Advocate-General at the Antwerp Court of Appeal - one franc in respect
of non-pecuniary damage suffered and to publish the relevant decision
in full in the weekly magazine Humo, in which they had published
five articles between July and November 1986 criticising judgments
given by the Third Division of that court in terms which the members
of that division described as defamatory.  The plaintiffs were also
given leave to have the judgment published in six daily newspapers at
the applicants' expense.

        The decisions criticised by the applicants had been given in
divorce proceedings in which the Court of Appeal had awarded the father
custody of his children despite allegations by the mother that he had
committed incest with them and subjected them to abuse.

2.      Like the majority, I take the view that the impugned judgments
undoubtedly amounted to an interference with the applicants' exercise
of their right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold
opinions and the right to impart information, which is enshrined in
Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10).  That interference was provided
for in Articles 1382 et seq. of the Belgian Civil Code and pursued the
aim of protecting the reputation of others - in this instance the
reputation of the judges of the division of the Court of Appeal that
had delivered the judgment - and maintaining the authority and
impartiality of the judiciary, legitimate aims under Article 10
para. 2 of the Convention (art. 10-2).

3.      The necessity of the judgment against the applicants in a
democratic society is therefore the final condition that the
interference has to satisfy in order to be regarded as justified under
paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the Convention (art. 10-2).  It is also
the only ground for my dissent from the majority, who considered that
the measure was neither necessary nor proportionate in view of the
fundamental role of the press in a State governed by the rule of law
and the relevance, in principle, of criticism of the functioning of the
system of justice.

4.      In my view, however, the articles in question contained, in
addition to criticism of the judicial decision on the custody of the
children in the divorce proceedings, assessments of the
Belgian judicial system in general and the political opinions of
members of the Antwerp Court of Appeal, whose names were given, and
details of the past of the father of one of the judges.  They
attributed to the judges and the Advocate-General political ideas
similar to those of the father who had been awarded custody.  I
consider these comments to have been very offensive to the
Belgian judiciary and defamatory of the judges and Advocate-General at
the Court of Appeal.  The latter were intentionally accused by the
applicants of having taken unjust decisions because of their friendship
or their political affinities with one of the parties to the
proceedings, and that amounts to an accusation of misfeasance in
public office.

5.      The articles contained expressions such as "Two children
crushed between the jaws of blind justice.  Incest authorised in
Flanders" or "Most of the judges of the Third Division of the
Court of Appeal, who awarded custody to the notary, also belong to
extreme-right-wing circles.  Judge [YB] is the son of a bigwig in the
gendarmerie who was convicted in 1948 of collaboration ...  It just so
happens that Principal Crown Counsel [YJ] has the same political
sympathies as the X family" (first article, of 26 June 1986).  "[H]alf
Flanders is shocked by such warped justice."  "This kind of brutal
pressurising seems to 'work' very well within the system of justice."
"Thanks to the fresh data, we now have an even better picture of how
often and how treacherously the courts have manipulated the case"
(second article, of 17 July 1986).  "[T]he ultimate guarantee of our
democracy, an independent system of justice, has been undermined at its
very roots" (third article, of 18 September 1986).  "It remains a
disgrace that the Antwerp courts refuse to take this evidence into
account" (fifth article, of 27 November 1986).

6.      In another case concerning the conviction of a journalist and
a publisher for defamation of a judge, similar to the present case,
albeit in criminal proceedings, the case of Prager and Oberschlick
v. Austria (judgment of 26 April 1995, Series A no. 313), the Court
stressed the need to strike the correct balance between the role of the
press in imparting information on matters of public interest, such as
the functioning of the system of justice, and the protection of the
rights of others and "the special role of the judiciary in society",
where "as the guarantor of justice, a fundamental value in a
law-governed State, it must enjoy public confidence if it is to be
successful in carrying out its duties" (paragraph 34).

7.      These features of freedom of the press not only are compatible
with freedom of expression but also confer on it the objectivity
required to ensure truthful and serious reporting of the functioning
of the system of justice.  As the Court said in the
Prager and Oberschlick case, "[i]t may therefore prove necessary to
protect such confidence against destructive attacks that are
essentially unfounded, especially in view of the fact that judges who
have been criticised are subject to a duty of discretion that precludes
them from replying" (ibid.).

8.      In the same judgment the Court also said: "The assessment of
these factors falls in the first place to the national authorities,
which enjoy a certain margin of appreciation in determining the
existence and extent of the necessity of an interference with the
freedom of expression."  However, this margin of appreciation is
subject to European supervision (paragraph 35).  In reviewing its
compatibility with the Convention, the Court must have regard to the
fact that "the press is one of the means by which politicians and
public opinion can verify that judges are discharging their heavy
responsibilities in a manner that is in conformity with the aim which
is the basis of the task entrusted to them" (paragraph 34).

9.      In my opinion, the decision on how to classify the extracts
mentioned in the impugned judgments concerning the lack of impartiality
of the judges and the Advocate-General at the Antwerp Court of Appeal
and the statements regarding the Belgian system of justice lies within
the margin of appreciation of the national courts.  The statements made
by the applicants amounted to value judgments on the political ideas
of the judges and Advocate-General in question or on the influence that
those ideas and family background had on the decision commented upon.
Such value judgments were not susceptible of proof and could not
justify the accusation of bias on the part of the judges or the
sweeping nature of the accusations or the virulence and
contemptuousness of the terms employed.

10.     The judicial decisions complained of were based not on the
criticism of the "objective truth" of the facts established in the
divorce proceedings or on the lawfulness of the decisions taken by the
judges, but on the dishonouring statements contained in the articles.
The journalists nevertheless raised important questions relating to the
criticism of the functioning of the system of justice and the courts
ought to have considered them in full and ruled on them in their
judgments.  This defect does not, in my view, invalidate the judgment
against the applicants for defamation, since that judgment was in fact
based on the offensive statements used in their articles.  The defect
goes to the breach of Article 6 (art. 6), which the Court found
unanimously.

11.     In the strict context of the impugned decisions, I consider
that the Belgian civil courts' finding that the terms employed and
statements made in the articles had undermined the reputation for
impartiality of the judges who had given the judgment on appeal and the
authority and independence of the judiciary was in conformity with
Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention (art. 10-2), as was the relief
afforded to the plaintiffs on this account.