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Project: Pre-emptive punishment in Belgian terrorism-related cases: Judicial interpretation, patterns and trends, and sentence severity in the adjudication of terrorist offenders since 2003

2021-10-01 – 2025-09-30

Abstract

A proliferation of criminal justice measures in the context of counter-terrorism has led to an increasing expansion of criminal liability. This legislative evolution has been widely criticised, but empirical research on the implications in practice has been largely inexistent in Belgium. This research project aims to gain insight in the adjudication of terrorism-related offenders in Belgium since the introduction of terrorism-specific legislation in 2003, in terms of judicial interpretation, patterns and evolutions, and sentence severity. The adjudication of Belgian terrorist offenders will be analysed through a content analysis of court rulings of terrorism-related trials between 2003 and 2020. These judgments will be systematically coded and analysed in a qualitative and quantitative manner, on the level of case and offender metadata, sentencing process and outcome variables and terrorism-specific variables. An analysis of the adjudication of Belgian terrorism-related offenders of the first two decades of the twenty-first century, and the evolutions therein, provides crucial insights in the response of the criminal justice system.

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