Brussels shooting: Staff shortage affects entire Brussels justice system, judges say
After last week's attack in Brussels, the spotlight has been on the lack of staff at the Brussels public prosecutor's office, but "the entire Brussels judiciary" is facing shortages, according to judges. Meanwhile, the government is in the process of putting its response to the shooting into action.
At the weekend, prime minister Alexander De Croo pointed to "a serious individual error at the Brussels public prosecutor's office" in the run-up to the 16 October attack in Brussels, in which a gunman killed two Swedes. An extradition request from Tunisia for the perpetrator, Abdesalem Lassoued, was not followed up last year. As a result, the federal government has decided to strengthen the public prosecutor's office in Brussels.
"This dramatic event highlights the chronic lack of human resources within the Brussels public prosecutor's office"
"This dramatic event highlights the chronic lack of human resources within the Brussels public prosecutor's office," the Royal Association of Justices of the Peace and Police said on Monday. "This disturbing finding, denounced for years, unfortunately, concerns the entire Brussels judicial system."
Filling the gaps
The association points out that six of the 19 magistrates' courts in Brussels are vacant. "In addition, the magistrates' courts of the districts of Brussels and Halle-Vilvoorde still do not have their own president or management committee. This weakens their functioning," it says. These "gaps" have existed for nine years. The association calls on politicians to address them "to prevent new tragedies".
Interior minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and new Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt (Open VLD) met the general commissioner of the federal police, Eric Snoeck, on Monday to discuss implementing the action points announced on Saturday.
"It takes time because we cannot compromise on quality or safety"
"The money has been released and is in the budget, let's use it," said Van Tigchelt. Verlinden said the government was on track to meet its target of recruiting 1,600 new inspectors a year but was struggling to recruit in a tight labour market. "We are turning the tide, but nobody can fill a full corps overnight," she said. "It takes time because we cannot compromise on quality or safety."
Van Tigchelt said that while the ranks of many federal judicial police forces are complete, it is difficult for Brussels and Antwerp to find suitable people.
Verlinden and Van Tigchelt are expected back in parliament on Wednesday for a briefing on the aftermath of last week's attack. State secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor will also be questioned.
Interior minister Annelies Verlinden and Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt at a meeting with the federal police on 23 October © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND