Home News MPs back greater police anti-terror powers

MPs back greater police anti-terror powers

Published on 21/12/2005

21 December 2005

BRUSSELS — The Belgian Parliament has approved highly controversial legislation aimed at sharpening investigation methods into terrorism and organised crime.
The legislation allows for an accelerated freeze on suspicious bank accounts and an expansion in the possibilities to conduct surveillance and bugging operations, news agency Belga reported.

On request of the public prosecutor but without a court order, police will in future be able to photograph or bug suspects, raid offices and garages and shadow escaped prisoners.

The new exceptional investigations law will also allow house raids to be conducted at night. A raid can be carried out without a court order if the building is a private residence.

Police informants may also work with the criminals they are informing upon. This means they may commit minor crimes if the information strengthens police intelligence in the fight against serious crimes, broadcaster VRT reported.

Lawyers, the Human Rights League and journalists have raised concerns that the legislation breaches the right to privacy, but Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx has repeatedly dismissed criticism.

Instead, the Socialist PS minister has said she is trying to find a balance between privacy and individual liberties on one hand and protection against terrorism and organised crime on the other.

The legislation is essentially an amendment to a previous law, a move the federal government had to carry out before the end of the year on order from the Arbitration Court.

The court had agreed with privacy concerns raised by the League of Human Rights and annulled part of the legislation. The ruling forced the government to revise its legislation.

The government has since lodged its revised legislation, which MPs backed on Tuesday morning. The Senate still needs to vote on the proposals.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news