Trial and Terror. Countering violent extremism and promoting disengagement in Belgium


  • Sigrid Raets Ghent University


Disengagement, Deradicalisation, Countering Violent Extremism, Belgium, Assisted Desistance


Efforts to promote disengagement from violent extremism have become a key ingredient in many counter-terrorism policies around the world. Deradicalisation and disengagement initiatives can also vary considerably from country to country. The following article contributes to the growing literature on countering violent extremism (CVE) by delineating the Belgian CVE landscape. Drawing on 50 semi-structured interviews with frontline practitioners and policy makers, this article offers an overview of the major players, guiding principles, and main challenges that define current efforts in Belgium. In addition, these efforts to support disengagement are examined through the prism of the assisted desistance framework. The fundamental premise behind this analysis is that, while violent extremism is a rather specific type of crime, it is a type of crime nonetheless. As such, this article seeks to juxtapose the current approach vis-à-vis violent extremist offenders with the usual response towards non-extremist offenders. In highlighting the implications for theory and practice, the findings of his article illustrate how lessons from other fields can help inform CVE efforts.


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