22 April 2004
BRUSSELS – A Gent court has ruled that Belgium’s far-right Flemish party, the Vlaams Blok, has repeatedly broken Belgium’s anti-racism laws by publishing overtly racist propaganda.
The court made its ruling on Tuesday evening at the end of a landmark case brought by two Belgian anti-racism groups.
In its judgement the court said the Blok deliberately tried to stir up “hatred against foreigners, with the principal targets being north Africans and Turks.”
Quoting Vlaams Blok propaganda, the court said the party described foreigners as “criminals who take the bread out of the mouths of Flemish workers, take advantage of the social security system and because of their culture, race or religion cannot integrate.”
The court added that the Blok’s rhetoric was clearly based on race rather than nationality as it also called for ‘foreigners’ from families that had been legally living in Belgium for two or three generations to be “sent home.”
Such views clearly breach a 1981 Belgian law that outlaws racial discrimination, the court said.
In handing out its judgement, the court fined three associations linked to the Vlaams Blok nearly EUR 12,400 each.
The ruling is also likely to deprive the far right party of around EUR 4 million a year of state funding. Racist political parties are not allowed to receive handouts from state coffers in Belgium.
The Vlaams Blok is a major political force in Dutch-speaking Flanders, which it would like to see become an independent state.
In last year’s parliamentary elections it won nearly 18 percent of the vote in Flanders and in 2000, 33 percent of voters supported it in municipal polls in Antwerp, the region’s largest city.
The Vlaams Blok’s President Frank Vanhecke condemned the court’s ruling and said he was planning an appeal.
Subject: Belgian news