Marc Dutroux, A Pedophile and Child-Killer
There was no doubt that had Dutroux not been released early and had police acted on tips from informants about his activities, four girls would be alive today and other young girls might have been saved from being sold into prostitution or child pornography. This realization caused a massive outcry from the Belgian public, demanding an inquiry into the handling of the Dutroux investigation, a change in laws and radical changes to the political and judicial system.
Public outrage sparked a call for Belgium to reinstate the death penalty that had been discontinued several months before the discovery of Dutroux's first victims. The public further demanded a tightening of the parole criteria for those convicted of child sex offenses. This was finally implemented in 1998.
The Dutroux case was the main subject of an international conference in Stockholm, which was organized by the United Nations' Children's Fund on August 28, 1996. Foreign Minister Erik Derycke emotionally called on all nations to combat the exploitation of children by "enhancing mutual law enforcement and judicial cooperation," as quoted in Belgium Today. It was stressed that it was necessary for all agencies to work together and fight against child abuse on all levels. It was announced at the conference that measures would be taken to ensure this, by calling on EU Member States to combine forces among the countries by ratifying EUROPOL and prioritizing cases related to those involving children.
Belgian citizens had finally had enough by mid-October, 1996. Belgians were furious not only with the mismanagement of the investigation into the missing girls, but were even more outraged when the investigative judge in the Dutroux case, Jean-Marc Connerotte, was dismissed. Many Belgians viewed Connerotte as a hero because he secured the arrest of Marc Dutroux and collected significant evidence against him that would help convict Dutroux and those in his pedophile ring. Belgium's Supreme Court removed Connerotte because he attended a fund raising dinner, which was organized to help in the search for missing children. It was later decided that his attendance at the fund raising event caused him to lose his objectivity when investigating the Dutroux case.
It was the dismissal of Connerotte and the incompetence of the police that prompted one of the largest peacetime marches in Belgium's history since World War II. In late October, more than 300,000 people dressed in white, a symbol of innocence, marched throughout the city of Brussels demanding serious reforms within the political and judicial system. Belgians were further angered at the possibility of there being a government cover-up. Confidence in the Belgian government was at a low point. Throughout Belgium, there were many who walked away from their work for the day in protest over the recent events. A car assembly plant was left vacant when its workers walked away in anger; some cities came to a stand still when train operators refused to work; and the families of the victims called for a general strike. It was time for the government to take action and make some of the necessary changes that were suggested in order to restore public order and confidence.
Belgium's Prime Minister Dehaene was quoted as saying, "This is a strong signal which we cannot ignore." He further stated that the movement was good because it would speed up reforms. Prime Minister Dehaene promised not only would he see to it that there would be reforms in the justice system, but he would also see the Dutroux investigation pursued to the end. Even Belgium's King Albert spoke up about the Dutroux case and called for reforms.