Sunday, May 15, 2011

Belgian of the week: Michèle Martin

Michèle Martin, the ex-wife of Belgium's infamous child killer Marc Dutroux, is about to be released from prison.

From BBC:
A court ruled in favour of freeing Michelle Martin, who is halfway through a 30-year jail sentence she received for complicity in the Dutroux case.
Prosecutors said there were no grounds to appeal against the decision.
Dutroux was detained along with Martin in 1996. He was given a life sentence in 2004.
In a case that shocked Belgium, Dutroux was convicted of the kidnap and rape of six girls, teenage or younger. He also killed two of the girls and caused the deaths of two others.
The Belgian justice authorities have approved a request to allow Martin to be transferred to a convent in France upon her release.
This request has been rejected, by the way.
Martin was found guilty in 2004 of helping Dutroux in the abductions, and of complicity in the deaths of two of the girls - eight-year-olds Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo.
Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo starved to death in Dutroux' basement dungeon while Dutroux spent three months in the custody of the police for involvement in a stolen luxury car racket. During this period, Martin was the only person who knew about the two girls locked up in the basement. She could have set them free. She could have gone to the police. She could have at least fed the girls. She did none of these things. Six months later, police found the girls buried in Dutroux' garden.
The bodies of the other two girls - An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19 - were found in 1996 in the garden of one of Dutroux's houses. Post-mortem reports showed they had been raped and beaten before being drugged and buried alive.
Two other girls - Sabine Dardenne, 12, and Laetitia, 14, were were found alive, confined in Dutroux's dungeon.
The house in Marcinelle where Marc Dutroux built his basement dungeon.
This is where Michèle Martin allowed two 8-year-old girls to starve to death.
Victims' families condemned the decision, saying Martin should complete her full sentence.
"She's the murderer of my daughter; 15 years seems light," said Jean-Denis Lejeune.
"Michelle Martin was as bad as Dutroux. She could've opened the door, given them water," he said. "We're allowing a monster out into society."
(Read the full BBC story here)


  1. Horrible horrible horrible :S :S :S
    What do they think they are doing?!

  2. Think about this: 15 years is still more than any murderer would serve in Norway.

    Then again, Norway has the lowest homicide rate in the world.

  3. As a member of a lobby group against the death penalty, I did much research on crime. Harsh punishments do NOT work as a deterrent. They scare off only those people with a conscience, who thus wouldn't commit harsh crimes anyway. It is no coincidence that countries like Norway or Finland have lower crime rates than countries with very harsh justice systems such as the US.

    In my opinion the death penalty is wrong in any case, not even the worst crime justifies state-endorsed killing. I am not a fan of life in prison neither, but I think this should exist for the harshest crimes only. And I think we all agree that Dutroux and his clan are in that minority who should spend their lives in prison without a chance to be paroled.

    I fully support the Lejeune law allowing people to be released after 1/3 or 2/3 of their sentence, it is not the law that has to disappear. It just has to be more carefully applied. It should not become the default to serve only 1/3 of your sentence, it should be an exceptional rule applied mainly in case of criminals who committed "small crimes". For serial killers and such, the law should obviously not be used. I disagree that the law Lejeune has to vanish ; I however agree that it is applied too often without careful consideration. Maybe a good idea would be to restrict the law to criminals only who committed non violent crime (fraude, non-armed robbery, ...) but make the law not applicable to those who committed murder or similarly harsh crimes.

  4. @Gerrit:

    I agree with your stance on the death penalty. However, I do not understand society well enough to agree that having a mild justice system automatically leads to lower crime rates.

  5. This is Gerrit again, I just struggle with how to fill in my name properly when commenting (I am more used to Wordpress than Blogger)

    The harsh punishments mainly work as a deterrent for people who would commit no crimes anyway due to their conscience. For psychopaths, that conscience is lacking. The death penalty even increases chances of murders, because for a psychopath killing with the risk of being executed and trying to stay out of the range of the police, is going to make it more exciting for him. Universities and institutes researched this numerous times, the death penalty does not work as a deterrent, and it costs a lot of money due to the numerous appeals that take a lot of time. Often people spend years and years on death row before all appeals are exhausted.

    My personal opinion is also that letting someone count the days till death ("10 days to live... 9days to live..." is beyond inhumane and even too cruel for the worst serial killer)

    We need to look at justice's purposes: protecting a society from a potentially dangerous individual. Life in prison without parole does exactly that without killing yet another person (because let's not forget, every murderer is someone child's/parent/sibling/maybe lover... as well. The family of a criminal suffers too, not only the family of a victim of crime)

    A lot has to do with societies as a whole of course. Countries like Hong Kong, Norway, Finland, ... don't have life sentences even, but in these societies crime rates were very low as they were. So I am not saying that a less harsh approach is the reason for those low crime rates.

    It however is proven multiple times by extensive research that harsh punishments do NOT work as deterrent for crime and don't decrease crime rates in the states where they are applied.

    I fully support the law allowing release before a sentence was completed, but I think certain crimes should be excluded from it: multiple rape, multiple murder with intention to do so, ... Leave the Law-Lejeune for people who committed non-violent crimes such as unarmed robberies, fraude, etc but don't use the law for those who are really dangerous. Dutroux definitely goes in the category of those who should spend the rest of their lives in prison. No torture needed or so, the knowledge you'll never be a free person, is punishment enough because it must be extremely hard to bear that fate. People who think a TV in a cell makes it like a hotel don't know what freedom is really worth. In a hotel you walk in and out when you wish. In a prison, with out without TV, you're in a tiny room without much spaceor comfort, and in cases like Dutroux without any hope of release.

  6. I agree with you on all counts, so that's all there is to say! But I couldn't tell you whether or not I have this opinion solely because I read John Grisham's "The Chamber" when I was only twelve years old.

  7. Read ; anyone still supporting capital punishment should at least give it a second thought because it is beyond cruel. Frankly, I wouldn't mind an embargo against countries still using it, we need to get this barbarism out of the world.

    Belgian people have a collective sympathy for any victim of crime, which is normal, and good. But they also seem to come up with the most barbaric punishments as if having a collective enemy brings up an occasion to let their darkest torture fantasy let loose without bein judged for it. People who compare a prison to a hotel, even when there is a TV in the cell... well, I wonder what holidays these people had and what hotels they stayed in, but they must have had some terrible holiday destinations if they compare prisons to hotels. Or either extremely materialistic, thinking a TV in a cell makes up for the feeling of no longer have freedom.

    People always see themselves as potential victims of crime, never as potential people who may be wrongly judged or may see a loved one end up in court. Every criminal is someone's child/parent/sibling/partner too, for that reason alone corporal and capital punishment should be outlawed globally and life in prison should be reserved for the worst cases only (eg genocide, mass murder, ...)

  8. Thanks for the input, and for the link. I didn't realize death row inmates were bloggers, too.

  9. They are indirect bloggers. They need to send everything hand-written to a befriended person in the free world, and hope that they maintain the blog in good state. For many of them it is a way to show the outside world in what miserable conditions they live, to bring attention to their cause or even raise funds to pay a decent lawyer when their appeals go to court (and a decent lawyer can be expensive, many pro-deo ones don't care too much. Hence the saying: "if you don't have capital, you get the punishment"). The death penalty should be outlawed globally IMO and I would advocate embargoes against countries still using it, even when this includes China and the States. Justice and revenge should never be combined.

  10. Of course, as long as the two largest economies in the world support the death penalty, there's no chance of that happening.

    Who do you think will outlaw capital punishment first, China or the U.S.?