Country Report on Terrorism 2010 - Chapter 2 - Belgium


Overview: Belgium’s government remained vigilant in its counterterrorism efforts. The Ministers of Interior and Justice oversee a capable but understaffed federal police corps, state security service, threat analysis unit, and federal prosecutor’s office. Belgian courts set a high standard for prosecutors to prove a suspect is a terrorist. Terrorism investigations were often long, requiring several months to more than a year before a case can be built that leads to arrests.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Belgium instituted enhancements to airline passenger screening in December 2009. Air cargo screening enhancements were adopted in summer 2010. A law that allows Belgium’s security services to use new investigative techniques against suspects in terrorism and national security cases came into effect in September 2010.

Seven defendants in an ongoing terrorism case, including Malika El-Aroud (the so-called “Internet jihadist”) were convicted in May under Belgium’s 2005 terrorism law. This was the first successful prosecution under the law. Nine suspected terrorists were detained on November 23 and were held in custody through the end of the year. Seven of the nine, plus an additional suspect detained later, were arrested in Antwerp; they were accused of membership in the Caucasus Emirate, a terrorist organization that seeks to create an emirate in the northern Caucasus. Two suspects were detained in Brussels for financing and recruiting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Belgian government continued to work with the U.S. government on the extradition to the United States of convicted terrorist Nizar Trabelsi, who had not yet exhausted his appeal options on the extradition request.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Belgium led the effort in late 2009 to find a solution that would allow EU countries to continue to freeze terrorist assets under UNSCR 1267 after European court cases ruled there must be a workable means for a person to contest his or her listing and be delisted, if appropriate. Belgium also hosted meetings to respond to the European Court’s 2010 ruling that UNSCR 1904 did not go far enough in allowing those listed to contest a listing. Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force.

Regional and International Cooperation: Belgium chaired the EU’s counterterrorism working group during Belgium’s Rotating Presidency of the European Council from July 1 to December 31. Belgium voted in favor of UNSCR 1904.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Belgium’s Ministry of Interior began developing its own Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy in 2010. The Belgian Federal Police distributed a Community Policing Preventing Radicalism and Terrorism guide to assist local police to recognize the signs of radicalization. The Belgian police worked on this guide for several years with seven other EU member states.

Belgium held two CVE seminars in September and October during its rotating EU presidency. Participants, including representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the National Counterterrorism Center, discussed approaches governments can take to recognize and counteract violent extremism.