1 Feb 2011

Belgian prosecutors open judicial inquiry into past sex abuse at institution for children run by nuns

Expatica.com - January 3, 2011

Belgium opens inquiry into nun child sex abuse claim


Belgian prosecutors on Monday said they had opened a judicial inquiry into claims of sexual abuse at an institution for children run by nuns in the southwestern town of Kortrijk.

The inquiry followed allegations of abuse by an "anonymous witness" from 1965 to 1970 in the Stella Maris home, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office told AFP.

The inquiry is in its early stages with investigators attempting "to identify the persons who may have committed the acts", the spokeswoman said.

"Acts committed in 1965-70 are probably beyond the statute of limitations, but we have decided to launch a major investigation to attempt to understand this case," the spokeswoman told RTL-TVI television.

"We want to know who was responsible for these acts, if they are still carrying out the same activities and whether they could have further victims," she said.

The home, a former orphanage, is no longer run by a religious order and is currently managed by a local group that assists troubled children.

Belgian media VRT, Een and Radio 2 said two people had come forward to report abuse allegations at the institution in the 1960s and 1990s.

"It's long ago but the Stella Maris board is nonetheless taking this seriously," the lawyer for the institution, Jan Leysen, told the Belga news agency.

"We are calling on all potential victims to come forward," he added.

The Roman Catholic Church in Belgium has been embroiled for months in child-abuse scandals, with a Church-backed commission revealing in September nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests and lay workers since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide.

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