Marc Dutroux ordered to stand trial in Belgium
April 30, 2003 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Dutroux to face jury trial This one's a shocker. Marc Dutroux has been held in custody in Belgium since 1996, having been arrested for the kidnap and killing of several young girls. There's 2 theories why the Belgian legal system has been unable to bring this guy to trial - either gross incompetence, or a conspiracy to protect those more important than himself, going all the way up to the government. [ more inside ]
posted by derbs (8 comments total)
The BBC has an interesting investigation on this (first shown about a year ago). The Belgian media and government seem to have a blanket of silence on this case

Over 20 people related to Marc Dutroux and the case have mysteriously died. One guy, a scrap metal dealer, claimed to have information on the car used to kidnap the 2 girls. He was found dead with a heart attack, later confirmed (in a US lab) that he was poisoned.

A quote from the article above:
"I am the monster of Belgium" Nihoul says, and he expects never to come to court - as the information he claims he has about important people in Belgium would bring the Government and the entire state down. "
posted by derbs at 8:09 AM on April 30, 2003

While a conspiracy does seem plausible, never underestimate the power and frequency of gross incompetence.
posted by monkeyman at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2003

I'm sorry to point out your mistake: the grossest incompetence or ill will is actually in the Correspondent piece, which was nothing more than a sensational account based on a loopy woman who has in fact been interviewed in every imaginable media outlet in Belgium. Media silence there was not.

It is - I'm sorry to say - another example of arrogant BBC journalism: we don' t have the facts, and we don't even speak the local language, but we'll have lunch with a few journalists, pick out the meatiest theories, and do a "hard" interview, in which we try to make the interviewee say that we are right. The same was seen when John Simpson went to interview Pim Fortuyn, "armed" with one badly translated quote, and insisting for half an hour that Fortuyn was a "fascist" without even understanding the man's program (full disclosure: I was very much opposed to Pim Fortuyn, but Simpson made me sick)

A conspiracy: I don't think so either. The reason why it took the Belgian justice system so long to bring Dutroux to trial is that a lot of people (one of whom is Dutroux himself) have tried to derail the investigation with accounts of "networks" or "conspiracies".

This has always been a key point in the Dutroux defense, precisely *because* an investigation into conspiracies (including the king Albert II, some industrialists, etc. etc. you name some rich/famous people, they were implied) would take so much time that he can go to the European Court of Human Rights to claim that he didn't get due process. The Court has always been very strict on expedient trials.

The Belgian minister of Justice is now Marc Verwilghen, who was the chairman of the House of Representatives Parliamentary enquiry into the mistakes made by justice system and police in the case of Marc Dutroux. While the enquiry indeed found instances of gross incompetence (see also: FBI, CIA and 9/11), no evidence of networks or conspiracies emerged.

"I am the monster of Belgium" Nihoul says, and he expects never to come to court - as the information he claims he has about important people in Belgium would bring the Government and the entire state down. "

Nihoul will face trial in Assises (ruled today).

Belgium is not a model state, as our prime minister would have you to believe, but it's not a banana republic either.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:37 AM on April 30, 2003

Thanks for the information there NekulturnY, interesting read.

Do you know how long it will take Nihoul/Dutroux to come to trial, and do you think Nihoul actually holds any information that could devastate the government?

Also, I certainly wasn't trying to say Belgium was some sort of banana republic (I can't say much hailing from the UK), but this article (not from the arrogant BBC!) states that several prosecutors, policemen and witnesses have 'commited suicide'.,7792,639371,00.html
posted by derbs at 9:26 AM on April 30, 2003

never underestimate the power and frequency of gross incompetence

Indeed. From Jeffrey Toobin's "Payday" (in the April 21/28 New Yorker (not online), about the endless lawsuit brought by Darryl Barnes, a violent gang member who pulled a gun on a cop and was shot and paralyzed back in 1988 (he was awarded $76.4 million in 1998, overturned on appeal, and has just been awarded $51.1 million, which the city is appealing): "And as for Barnes's Tec-9, the fearsome weapon that was the centerpiece of the city's case, a police property clerk had mistakenly destroyed it and the shell casings almost ten years ago.... The next witness, Jeremy Jacobowitz, another officer who responded to the shooting, had lost his notebook from 1988." There are a million stories like this, but I just happened to be reading this one. (Anyone interested in tort reform should read the article, by the way.)
posted by languagehat at 9:51 AM on April 30, 2003

Another example of incompetence is the Bernardo/Homolka case in Canada. It rivals the Dutroux case in depravity, although there has never been any suggestion of official complicity.

(For those who, luckily, have never heard of these two: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka appeared to be the perfect, young, middle-class suburban couple. He was an accountant, she a pretty-young-thing, living in a bungalow in a small Ontario town near the American border. In actual fact, they kidnapped, raped and killed three young girls in horrible fashion, videotaping two of the crimes. Their first victim was Tammy Homolka, Karla's younger sister. She died after succumbing to the animal tranquilizer her sister used to drug her before presenting her to Mr Bernardo as a "Christmas present." The two other victims were local Catholic school girls, kidnapped within a year of each other, imprisoned in the couple's house, repeatedly raped, then killed.)

There's no doubt that police bungling cost the last two girls their lives. Despite obvious signs of poisoning -- a chemical burn across half of the right side of her face caused by the tranquiliser -- Tammy Homolka was buried without an autopsy and police ruled it a natural death. Mr Bernardo's DNA was collected during an investigation into a serial rapist in Toronto but was not tested for years. Police searched the couple's home but failed to find the videotapes of the rapes and murders hidden in a storage space above the bathroom sink. By the time the tapes were handed over by Ms Homolka's attorney, the Crown had already made a deal with Ms Homolka, who testified against her husband in exchange for a 12-year sentence.

Mr Bernardo is doing life in isolation at Kingston Pen, Canada's Attica. He's already survived a couple of chances on his life -- and even sued a Corrections S.W.A.T. team for not carrying him gingerly enough when they had to go in an rescue him from one murder attempt.

Karla Homolka is finishing up her bit at a women's prison outside my city, Montreal. She'll be out next summer.

Free as a bird.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:20 AM on April 30, 2003

The trials against Dutroux, Nihoul, and their accomplices are in the last stage before the actual trial. The Kamer van Inbeschuldigingstelling (comparable to a grand jury, thought not with "peers" but professional magistrates) has found enough indications of guilt to turn them over to Assises (which is the only sort of jury trial in Belgium, reserved for the gravest crimes). If the defendants do not appeal this, the court will soon set a trial date.

Nihoul has said for years that he has and will use the information if brought to court, but he has never used it, and after all the bogus theories he put forth, it is highly unlikely that he has anything substantial against "the government" (which is actually already an other government since the beginning of the investigation, and soon to change again after the May 18th election).

It's true that some unaccountable things have happened with the investigation, and some people connected to the case have died. Maybe because the case has been going on for so long (seven years). On the other hand, it's quite clear that Dutroux worked with a small team. It could be that one of them is still at large, occasionally killing witnesses. To call this a conspiracy is pushing it a bit far though.
posted by NekulturnY at 11:21 AM on April 30, 2003

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