Buizingen rail disaster court case can be held in French

The court case related to the 2010 Buizingen (Flemish Brabant) rail disaster can be held in French after all. Previously a police court had decided that the trial should be held in Dutch, the official language of the place where the accident occurred. The decision to now let the trial take place before a Francophone court has far-reaching implications, not least because a large portion of the thousands of pages of documents relating to the case are in Dutch and must now be translated.

This will probably lead to the start of the case being significantly delayed and could even lead to it exceeding the time limitation set for cases to be held after an alleged offence has been committed.

The train driver’s solicitor had requested that the case be conducted in French as his client was unable to speak or understand Dutch. Previously a police court had decided that the case should be conducted in Dutch however this has now been overruled by the District Court.

The Judicial Authorities could still appeal to the Court of Cassation. The case should have got under way on 14 November. However, the decision to change the language in which it will be conducted could serve to delay it by some time. The case file contains thousands of pages, most of which are in Dutch. All this will now need to be translated into French, a task that will take a considerable amount of time.

The Public Prosecutors’ Office estimates that everything should have been translated by August 2020. However, if this were the case no one could be convicted as the alleged offences would have happed more than 10 years previously.  

The Buizingen rail disaster

On 15 February 2010 two trains collided on a stretch of track in Flemish Brabant village of Buizingen. 19 people died and more than 300 people were in the crash that received global media attention. The investigation into the disaster took least.

The technical complexity and the fact that the investigation was taken over by different teams of investigators several times meant that it wasn’t until now that the case was ready to go to court.

The investigation showed that it is probable that the train driver went through a red signal and that the rail operator NMBS and the rail infrastructure management company Infrabel were also partly responsible as safety measures were lacking.  

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