The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Dutroux case opens tomorrow - Belgium on trial?

Way back in 1996, it seemed like El Gordo. The rank incompetence and corruption of the government of a Western country seemed as if they might lead - via a truly dire criminal case - to its removal by peaceful revolution.

Never happened of course, or was ever going to. Turning up stones is not the Belgian way. The government - and the parts responsible for justice and law and order in particular - is designed for minimum efficiency and maximum political benefit.

Jobs are allocated to political parties to share amongst their cronies. The police and gendarmerie battled against each other with far more ferocity than ever was evident in their fight against crime.

It was a great twofer: if the cop responsible for a case wasn't corrupt, he was too stupid or lazy to make much headway.

But, there was the great Marche blanche of October 20 1996, which gathered 300,000 in Brussels: surely something would be done?

Not much has been, so far as I can tell. But at least Dutroux has been preserved long enough for there to be a trial.

There is plenty of Dutroux stuff about: Le Soir has a page with links to a dozen or more stories. Libre Belgique has a piece summarising the main matters at stake in the trial, both in the case and without; the paper also has a piece extracting elements from the acte d'accusation drawn up by Procureur Michel Bourlet.

There's an AP chronology of the case. And a long piece in the Nouvel Observateur.

MORE (March 1)

A Belgian site - in French [1] - has materials on the case, including the 1997 report of the Enquête Parlementaire - which I don't think advanced matters much.

There is also the Julie et Mélissa site (Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were two of the girls with whose murders Dutroux is charged).

And an official handout from the Justice Ministry on the trial.

(I haven't traced any site with trial documentation - not entirely staggered at that!)

I have no idea whether I'm going to be taking more than a passing interest in the trial. The suggestion is that it is going to be a monumental whitewash, in more ways than one. Though some whitewashes (like Hutton) do not wash as white as it promises on the label!

  1. Dutch is, well, double Dutch to me: I'm not proud of it, it just is! To oversimplify, given the balance of the population, around half of Belgian material in the national languages is liable to be in Dutch. Official material will usually be in both, I suspect. The rest is inaccessible, except to the small minority of the world population who are Dutch speakers. (Not a rant, just a fact.)

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