The trial of the attacks of March 22 has brought back to the fore the old debate on the Assize Court and the abolition of the popular jury. Is the popular jury system still relevant?

With each high-profile trial the question of the relevance of the citizen participation in the Assize Court comes back to the forefront, dividing politics, magistrates, lawyers, and citizens.

TheMerode is welcoming four prominent voices of the judicial world for a debate exploring the relevance of the popular jury system through three points of view: the court, the represented parties, and the politics.

What is citizen participation bringing to a trial? What are the limits of the popular jury? Should specific crimes, such as terrorist attacks, be trialed in the Assize court?

So many questions that will be explored in an exhilarating debate confronting Koen Geens, Sven Mary, Damien Vandermeersch and Olivia Venet.

Join us for this panel discussion and take part in the ongoing debates surrounding the Assize Court and the legitimacy of the popular jury system in criminal courts.


Koen Geens is a member of the Federal Parliament (or Federal Representative) and Professor at KULeuven. Between 2013 and 2020, Koen Geens was successively Minister of Finance, Justice and European Affairs in Belgium. In 2019-2020 he was Deputy Prime Minister. He is currently a Member of the Federal Parliament, where he focuses on Justice.

Since 1986 he is Extraordinary Professor at the University of Leuven (KULeuven) where he teaches company law, financial law and legal ethics.

Sven Mary is a criminal defence lawyer and one of the very few criminal lawyers who pleads in both French and Dutch.

He has been involved in many high-profile cases and although some have called him the ‘scoundrel’s lawyer’, no one disputes another of his nicknames, that of the ‘king of procedure’.

In the 70 cases he has already pleaded in the Assize Court, he has intervened on behalf of both the accused and the victims.

Damien Vandermeersch is Advocate General at the Court of Cassation where he concludes criminal cases before the Court.

He has been a judge at the Brussels Court of First Instance, was a member of the “Assize Court Reform” Commission as well as chairman of the Interministerial Commission on Humanitarian Law. He was appointed with Professor Joëlle Rozie to form the Criminal Law Reform Commission charged by Minister of Justice Geens with the drafting of a preliminary draft of a new Criminal Code.

He also teaches criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of Louvain and at the University of Saint-Louis in Brussels.

Olivia Venet is a lawyer at the Brussels Bar and Honorary President of the League for Human Rights. She is specialized in general criminal law and human rights.

After working for three years in the international humanitarian law department of the Belgian Red Cross, she became a lawyer at Vergauwen in 2006. She is currently working as a specialist in criminal law.


Maryam Benayad, is a journalist for the Belgium service of La Libre Belgique, trained at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in journalism and communication. Also a criminologist, Maryam works mainly on Justice/Police issues, she is also a radio and TV columnist and a debate moderator.


  • 18:30 > Welcome
  • 19:00 – 20:00 > Panel discussion and Q&A
  • 20:00 > Networking at TheStables


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