Flemish nationalists pressing for "State of Emergency" powers

Belgium's strongest political force, the Flemish nationalist N-VA, is calling for dedicated courts to try terrorism-related cases. The N-VA says that in this way a more centralised and unitary approach can be given to the way the Belgian judicial system tackles the terrorist threat.

Terrorism cases are already the sole preserve of federal prosecutors. The N-VA believes that this should now be mirrored by the courts. In this way judges will be able to acquire more expertise. At present there are too many differences in approach between districts the Flemish nationalists maintain.

The new courts would form divisions within existing courts. A similar approach already exists for tax cases. All the steps within the Belgian legal system including appeal would be dealt with within such courts.

The Flemish nationalists are also pressing for the government to be given powers to declare a state of emergency following a series of terrorist attacks. Under a state of emergency the police would be able to detain people who could pose a threat to public order without the intervention of the courts. The nationalists have dropped an earlier suggestion that would entail limiting free speech for "terrorist collaborators". The N-VA is now finalising its proposals that will be put to the coalition partners next month.

"No Guantanamo in Belgium"

In a reaction Prime Minister Charles Michel insisted that he first wanted to see the N-VA's precise proposals before giving a definitive judgement. The prime minister pointed to the 30 measures already taken to improve security adding he was always prepared to discuss how security could be improved, but as far as he was concerned a judge would always be needed to give the go ahead e.g. for a telephone tap. He insisted he didn't want to open a Guantanamo-style detention centre on our shores.