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Belgium has detailed anti-terrorism legislation incorporated in its Criminal Code by the Terrorist Offences Act of 2003. In 2017, a new terrorist offence of travelling abroad for terrorist purposes was added. There is no carve-out for the exercise of fundamental human rights.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

A terrorist offence is defined in the Criminal Code as an offence that

by its nature or context, may seriously harm a country or an international organization and is committed intentionally with the aim of seriously intimidating a population or unduly compelling a public authority or an international organization to perform or refrain from to do any act, or to seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization.Art. 137, Criminal Code of Belgium.

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties

Belgium is a State Party to all of the main United Nations and European treaties on terrorism.

Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party


Belgium ratified the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism only in May 2022. It is a signatory to its 2015 Protocol. The 2003 Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism has not yet entered into force.

Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
2003 Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
2005 Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism State Party
2015 Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism Signatory

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

Belgium prescribes life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for terrorist offences in its Criminal Code

In February 2013, a new law criminalized any person who diffuses ideas or messages to incite terrorist acts. The Criminal Code, as amended in 2013, also criminalized recruitment for terrorist purposes. In 2017, a new terrorist offence of travelling abroad for terrorist purposes was added.

Persons charged with terrorist offences as well as those convicted of terrorist offences are held in a variety of Belgian prisons, which are geographically distributed across the country. In a visit to Belgium in 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism expressed her concern about the particular risks of conflating genuine and protected religious practice with radicalization during assessment of prisoners. She regretted that that no systematic deradicalization or disengagement programmes are being put in place in Belgian prisons. This is despite the adoption in 2015 of an Action Plan against radicalization in prisons.

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

Begium's federal police have five counterterrorism units, including one for Brussels and another for Antwerp. Domestic deployment of the army when the terrorism threat level is raised.

On 22 March 2016, 32 people were killed and more than 300 injured in Brussels in terrorist attacks. According to the US Department of State, Belgium's greatest terrorism threat today is homegrown terrorism carried out by lone actors, whether inspired by Islamist violent extremism or, to a lesser extent, the far right, which Belgium calls “violent right-wing extremism.”  

Belgium originally issued a plan to counter radicalisation to violence, “Plan R”, in 2007, which it updated in 2016. 


Criminal Code of Belgium (French original)