The Chamber’s Justice Commission this week passed various bills to better assist victims of terrorism and speed up the processing of their files, Justice Minister Koen Geens said on Thursday. For two years now, victims of the Brussels terror attacks have complained of the difficulties, and even distress, they experience because the compensation process is long and fastidious. The parliamentary commission on terror attacks echoed their complaints: too many public and private bodies were involved, too many medical exams were required, etc.
The reforms are aimed in particular at improving the way the commission set up to help the victims, one of the linchpins of the system, functions. It will now have a “terrorism” section comprising a single chairman. The emergency assistance ceiling will be raised from 30,000 to 125,000 euros. The Commission will quickly grant victims an initial assistance to cover their first expenses and a subrogation mechanism has been created with insurers. People who are not residents of Belgium will also be able to have national solidarity status.
One particular category of victims is also targeted: that of the Cold Cases, such as the Brabant Killers: a new item has been created for exceptional damages in cases where the criminal investigation has lasted at least 10 years without unearthing the perpetrators and their motives. The Commission to Aid the Victims of Terrorism can grant exceptional assistance of 125,000 euros to enable them to cover, for example, attorney’s fees or psychological support.
“The victims and their families will be helped more quickly and will feel less vulnerable in the face of the administrative procedures, so they will be better able to enjoy the right to legal assistance or to financial assistance for transport and accommodation costs,” Minister Geens explained.
“The amounts paid out in the acute phase will also be increased,” he added. “People who have to bear such grief certainly do not need to have to worry about whether they’ll be able to pay hospital bills.”
There are 682 files related to the terror attacks perpetrated in Belgium on 22 March 2016. The total amount of emergency aid granted thus far is close to two million euros, while non-emergency aid totals 816,700 euros.
Another bill is expected, relating to future cases. It seeks to extend insurance coverage and provides for a cascading system between insurances. However, there are reservations about this bill within the commission of investigation since many members find that it does not comply with recommendations.