Belgium expands terrorism database to beef up prisoner surveillance

Belgium expands terrorism database to beef up prisoner surveillance
Credit: © Belga

Belgium is reshuffling and expanding its terrorism database in order to better equip law enforcement authorities to monitor and share information about "potentially dangerous people," particularly behind bars.

Justice Minister Koen Geens announced in a press release that the common database of Terrorist Fighters would be updated with two new categories: "potentially violent extremists" and "terrorism convicts."

The changes ensure that "follow-ups on potentially dangerous people" can be done more efficiently, and comes three years after the database was first created after coordinated terrorist bombings in Brussels left 32 civilians dead on 22 March 2016.

"The main purpose of the database extension is to ensure that all prisoners who show significant signs of radicalisation are subject to information sharing via the common database and that the evaluation of this persons is coordinated," Geens' statement read.

The expansion follows the recommendations of a parliament judiciary committee set up in the aftermath of the attacks, which recommended the additional categories be created for more efficient and integrated follow-ups.

Prior to the changes, the database included three categories: foreign terrorist fighters, homegrown terrorist or preachers of hate, witht he first referring to Belgian nationals or residents who travelled abroad to join a terror group.

Homegrown terrorists included individuals with links to terror groups or suspected terrorism-related activities who had not gone abroad to join a terror organisation, while a hate preacher is defined as someone who promotes terror-related violence or human rights violations.

The new categories will namely allow authorities to more efficiently keep an eye on people imprisoned for terror-related charges or suspected of links with radical or extremist circles, which were up to now monitored by penitentiary authorities working with separate databases.

In the statement, Geens said that he agreed with the parliamentary committee's assertion that a common database which could allow for integrated monitoring and exchange of information was "absolutely necessary" to improve the efficiency of monitoring efforts with regards to "certain detainees."

Four men are currently detained pending trial over their suspected participation in the planning or executing of the Brussels terror attacks, for which the lengthy judicial investigation was wrapped up in June.

No fixed date has been set for the trial.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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