'No security clearance': legislators cannot see proof of extreme-right threat in Belgium

'No security clearance': legislators cannot see proof of extreme-right threat in Belgium
Serge Lipszyc. Credit: Belga

A committee looking into increasing extreme right activity in Belgium has confirmed in a report to a parliamentary follow-up commission that the country’s institutions are under serious threat but says it is legally unable to provide commissioners with concrete information on the threat.

"There is, in fact, a serious threat to our institutions," the head of the Comité R (Standing Intelligence Agencies Review Committee), Serge Lipszyc noted in a supplementary report on the rise of the extreme right addressed to the Chamber’s Follow-up Commission, which is scheduled to meet on Monday.

The report, however, stresses that it is legally impossible to provide the parliamentarians of the Commission with concrete details since they lack security clearances allowing them to receive classified information.

"The elements, figures and even concrete examples enable us to show, even without violating information secrecy, the confidentiality of deliberations or professional secrecy, that a serious threat hangs over our institutions, as has been said and written on many occasions in preceding reports," Lipszyc said at the submission of the report, a copy of which was leaked to the Belga News Agency.

It was these elements which, “pursuant to the judiciary’s established principle of sharing the Committee’s general observations on a number of problems” it observed, led Lipszyc to conclude in late October in Wilfried magazine that a serious extreme-right threat to the country’s institutions was emerging.

“The present report will necessarily be disappointing because it is the legislature itself that restricts the possibility for the chairman of the Standing Committee to provide the Permanent Commission with concrete information,” he said.

“Democratic oversight will evidently be facilitated if the Chairman of the Standing Intelligence Agencies Review Committee had the right to speak openly with the parliamentary body that oversees it,” Lipszyc stressed, recalling that “it is not the chairman of the Standing Committee who is responsible for this impossibility.”

The 27-page report recalls the “multiple so-called security issues” to which the attention of the country’s institutions – its services, administration, ministers and parliament - has been drawn since 2020.

Many of these issues and recommendations were left unanswered until the Conings affair broke, it noted in a reference to Jurgen Conings, a soldier with extreme right ideas who issued threats against the country’s institutions and was found dead after a days-long manhunt in June last.

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