A civil judge and court clerk were shot and killed in a central Brussels courtroom on Thursday by a man attending the morning's hearings. Police were searching for the shooter who fled the courtroom, but may have been injured [Irish Times report] while escaping. Private gun ownership is legal in Belgium, but the government enacted stricter regulations in 2006 [text, PDF; in French and German] requiring gun owners to obtain a permit before purchasing a weapon and requiring them to register their weapons. The law was enacted after a man purchased a gun [BBC report] and then went on a shooting spree killing a woman and child. Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck indicated Thursday's shooting emphasized the need for increased security [AP report] in Belgian courthouses.
Judges have also been victims of violent attacks in other countries. Earlier this week, three judges were killed in a Chinese courthouse [JURIST report] by a man allegedly upset over the division of marital assets. In April, a Moscow City Court [official website] judge known for presiding over cases involving neo-Nazi groups was killed [JURIST report] while leaving his apartment. The murder of Judge Eduard Chuvashov was suspected to be a contract killing in light of the death threats he faced after presiding over the trials of members of neo-Nazi gangs. In November, a Somali judge known for jailing suspected pirates [JURIST news archive], human traffickers, and Islamist insurgents was shot dead [JURIST report] while leaving a mosque in the Puntland city of Bossaso. Judge Mohamed Abdi Aware of the Puntland high court and the Puntland Supreme Judicial Council, had recently jailed four members of the al-Shabaab Islamist group and had sentenced 12 suspected pirates to terms ranging from three to eight years.