1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Belgian minister quits over failure to extradite gunman

October 21, 2023

Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne admitted a "monumental error" after reports surfaced that Tunisia, in 2022, requested extradition of the man who allegedly killed two people in Brussels this week.

Vincent Van Quickenborne holding a press conference in Brussels
Vincent Van Quickenborne announced his resignation at a press conference on FridayImage: Hatim Kaghat/BELGA MAG/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced his resignation on Friday after revealing that authorities failed to extradite a Tunisian national who killed two football fans on Monday.

Van Quickenborne told a press conference that Tunisia had sought the extradition of the suspected shooter in August last year, but Belgian authorities did not act. The shooter had already spent time in prison in Sweden and his asylum claim was rejected by Belgian authorities in 2020.

"It's an individual, monumental and unacceptable error with dramatic consequences," Van Quickenborne said. "The magistrate in question did not follow up this demand and the dossier was not handled."

"I am not looking for any excuses. I think it's my duty" to resign, he added.

Suspect lived in Belgium illegally

The suspect, a 45-year-old who identified himself as a member of the so-called "Islamic State" group, is believed to have shot dead two Swedish soccer fans and wounded a third in Brussels on Monday night. The suspect was later killed by police.

Official documents showed that the suspect had lodged asylum applications in Norway, Sweden, Italy and Belgium.

Brussels shootings spark debate over deportation policy

After his asylum application in Belgium was denied, he was ordered to be deported in 2021.

However, this did not happen because authorities could not find an address for him and he remained in Belgium illegally.

Belgium's judicial system in the spotlight

The attack on Monday has renewed debate in Belgium over judicial and administrative errors in following up on radicalized persons.

The suspect was known to Belgian authorities in connection with human trafficking.

"This new information coming from the prosecutors hits me deeply as I have done everything possible to improve the judicial system," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.

The prime minister said he had taken note of Van Quickenborne's decision to step down, adding he had "respect for his political courage."

zc/dj (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)