|See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Belgium.
In March 2004, in Arlon, the lawsuit was initiated against
Marc Dutroux, who was charged with abduction, rape and
murder. The trial took place 8 years after the actual
incidents. Dutroux, along with 3 others, were accused of
abducting, torturing and raping 6 children in 1995-96,
killing 4 of them. Only 2 were rescued alive. In June,
Dutroux was convicted of pedophilia and sentenced to life in
prison. His 3 co-conspirators were also convicted. His
ex-wife, 44-year-old Michelle Martin was convicted of
conspiracy and given 30 years in prison; 32-year-old Michel
Lelievre was found guilty of abduction and given 25 years in
prison; 62-year-old Michel Nihoul was sentenced to 5 years
In July, 15 people died and over 120 were severely burned
in an explosion at the Ghislenghien chemical plant in Ath,
30km southwest of Brussels. Several of those killed had been
investigating a leak in a gas pipeline carrying gas from the
coast of Belgium to France. The explosion was characterized
by the Belgian government as one of the worst disasters of
recent times, as the area looked like a pure war zone. Paris
provided helicopters and rescue equipment.
Despite several months of failed language rights
negotiations in a Brussels district, the government in May
2005 won a vote of confidence on the issue. Still, the case
did question the future of Belgium as a unified nation. The
thing was that in previous years many Francophones had moved
to areas of Brussels that were previously Flemish dominated.
It distorted the balance between the Flemish and
French-oriented parties in these areas, and had triggered a
political crisis that reached government level.
The Belgian legal community is under intense pressure. On
February 28, 2006, 7 people were sentenced in Knokke,
Brussels, for 4-6 years in prison for organizing press
conferences and translated material from the Turkish
left-wing organization DHKP-C. This organization is probably
banned in Turkey and Germany, but not in Belgium. The ruling
triggered shock and protest reactions among parliamentarians
and intellectuals in several European countries. The
consequence may be that it is illegal to simply carry out
human rights work in support of oppressed persons and
organizations. “We must set an example so that our country
is not transformed into a terrorist support point.
Therefore, a dissuasive penalty must be met, ”prosecutor
Johan Delmule said during his proceeding.
In April 2006, Belgium became the 4th country in the
world to grant gay couples the right to adoption. Spain, the
Netherlands and Canada have similar legislation.
In June 2007, the Christian Democrats won the ruling
coalition. Christian leader Yves Leterme declared: “The time
has come for change. The population wants a different
development ». He also declared a decentralization of power
to Flanders in the north and Wallonia in the south. The
country was subsequently thrown into a ½ year parliamentary
crisis where a new government failed. On December 21, 2007,
Verhofstadt was re-elected Prime Minister of a coalition of
Christian Democrats, Liberals and his own Social Democracy.
In accordance with the government agreement, the prime
minister's post in March 2008 was handed over to Christian
Yves Leterme. Leterme's goal was to change the Belgian
constitution in order to delegate more power to the regions.
He set July 15 as the deadline for solving this task. It
failed and he therefore filed his farewell request to the
king, who however rejected it.
The global financial crisis sent the Fortis financial
group into deep crisis, and in line with the governments of
the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Belgian decided in
October to nationalize the Belgian branch of the group. This
happened without asking the shareholders, who then filed
suit against the Belgian state. The state won in the first
place, but lost in the next, and when it was further
revealed that the government had sought to influence the
judges of the court of appeal, Prime Minister Leterme filed
his resignation for the second time. The king accepted, and
per. On December 30, 2008, Herman Van Rompuy became new
Prime Minister. Leterme returned to the post as early as
November 2009, when Rompuy was appointed President of the