The Turning Point: Belgium’s Response to the 2016 Terrorist Attacks

No data was found

Belgium backs and promotes a comprehensive and inclusive strategy towards combating terrorism and attaches significant importance to achieving the correct balance between prevention and repression and reintegration and rehabilitation. On 22 March 2016, two combined terrorist attacks in and close to Brussels, Belgium, were undertaken by the Islamic State. Two suicide bombers exploded bombs at Brussels Airport in Zaventem just outside Brussels, and one discharged a bomb on a train leaving Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station in the EU Quarter of Brussels. Thirty-two people died and more than 300 were injured. In 2007 Belgium issued its first Action Plan against Radicalization, which was updated in 2016

On 24 and 25 March 2016, police apprehended twelve people in raids in Belgium, France and Germany. One man was recognised as the third airport attacker, the “man in the hat” seen on CCTV with the two suicide bombers at the airport on the day of the attacks. He was apprehended with terrorist offences. The terrorist aggression in Brussels on the 22nd of March 2016 was a turning point in the Belgian course to eliminating international terrorism. In the aftermath of these attacks, the Belgian authorities intensified the legal, institutional and operational framework to fight terrorism, while maintaining a holistic approach to controlling and countering the phenomenon. 

The Federal Government has presented a package of 30 counterterrorism measures since 2015. In 2017, a new set of 28 benchmarks in the security field, several of which are particularly appropriate in the fight against terrorism, were reported. Among these efforts, cite in particular: adding to the Criminal Code a new terrorist offence involving travelling abroad for terrorist purposes, expanding the list of offences leading to the usefulness of specific investigation methods (art. 90b of the Code of Criminal Procedure), the temporary parting of an identity card, refusal to give and withdrawal of passports, reform of the National Security Council’s intelligence and security structures,…

The judicial approach has been significantly bolstered: the terrorist offences have been developed and further specified, intelligence and investigation methods also developed, initiatives were taken to enhance information sharing, the financial and human resources open to security services have been bolstered and repressive and administrative actions were reinforced. Some of the measures carried include the increase of border controls in airports and international train stations, the enhancement of the intelligence services report position abroad, the enlargement of the security of identity cards to the use of biometric data, the installation of travelling abroad for terrorist reasons as a terrorist offence, growing the options for revoking the Belgian nationality of people with dual nationality, a change of the consular code to permit refusal, withdrawal or invalidation of passports regarding people regarded as threatening the public order or national security, the adoption of a new PNR regulation including air travel, travel by boat, train and bus, an advancement of the investigation methods connected to the Internet and electronic and telecommunications, tough legislation for cryptocurrencies, an attachment of the criminalization of stimulation to terrorism and recruitment to terrorism. 

There have been up to 426 judicial convictions for terrorist crimes since 2016. More than 279 individuals have been incorporated into the national terrorism list, resulting in asset freezing. Through these and other efforts, Belgium is implementing relevant UNSC Resolutions, in particular Resolutions 2178 and 2396. Belgium is dedicated to a human rights-compliant approach in line with its international commitments under international law, in particular human rights law.

In line with its holistic, integrated strategy addressing the challenge of terrorism and violent extremism, first-line prevention teams were set up in most affected municipalities, to monitor and react to cases of radicalization. Regional teams and ‘mobile teams’ were also developed to facilitate the exchange of good techniques between municipalities, while multidisciplinary support centres were established to help citizens confronted with radicalization. Furthermore, opposing the foreign terrorist fighter threat through prison de-radicalization is a leading priority, and funding has been expanded for radicalization-related counselling in prisons. 

In 2015, the Action Plan against radicalization in prisons was embraced. The central purpose of the policy is twofold and consists of, on the one hand stopping the radicalization of detainees during their detention and, on the other hand, developing a technical follow-up of radicalized people during their detention

Share this page:

Related content

Hybrid Tactics and NATO's Resilience: Safeguarding Alliance Security

Hybrid Tactics and NATO's Resilience: Safeguarding Alliance Security

NATO partners face threats and challenges from both state and non-state players who use hybrid moves to target political institutions, affect public opinion and damage the security of NATO citizens.…
Pakistan's Crackdown on Terrorism Post-Peshawar Attack

Pakistan's Crackdown on Terrorism Post-Peshawar Attack

On 16 December 2014, six terrorists affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan executed a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The terrorists, all of…
France's Anti-Terrorism Journey: Responding to Threats and Safeguarding Security After the Paris Attacks

France's Anti-Terrorism Journey: Responding to Threats and Safeguarding Security After the Paris Attacks

France announced a state of emergency on the evening of November 13, 2015, after the fatal terror attacks on French soil in modern history left 130 people killed in the…