Marc Dutroux: Does that name mean anything to you? A little over 59 years ago in Belgium, in the southern Ardennes where the Battle of the Bulge was raging against Nazi forces, American checkpoints would ask suspicious-looking soldiers in American uniforms to identify Betty Grable as a touchstone to prove their nationality. Today the name “Marc Dutroux” could function in the same manner to identify Belgians. Outside that country little has been heard about the prosecution of Dutroux, which only started at the beginning of this week, other than some mention in the French and Dutch presses. Inside of Belgium, however, a full-fledged media storm is now raging over Dutroux’ crimes and those of his accomplices, and over their belated prosecution.
It is a huge case, with many facts, crimes, and personages involved. Naturally, the Belgian on-line press is also covering it extensively, and I’ve found the that the best special collections of past and current articles on the subject are provided by Antwerp’s Dutch-language De Standaard (but most articles here require an on-line subscription) and the French-language La Libre Belgique. Perhaps the best summary of what has gone on here is that a full seven-and-one-half years after their arrest, a band of criminals is finally being brought to trial in Belgium for gruesome crimes of abduction, sexual abuse, and forced imprisonment of young girls – and that all along the way the police, court, and investigative authorities have bumbled along in a manner that has severely tested Belgian citizens’ confidence in these institutions’ ability to fulfill their fundamental protective functions. (more…)