BRUSSELS — Even after all these years, the mere mention of the name “Marc Dutroux” can wipe the smile off the face of almost any Belgian.

And now that the convicted pedophile and killer’s ex-wife — an accomplice who let two of his victims starve to death — is on the verge of release, Belgium is being forced to relive some of its darkest moments.

On Tuesday, the nation’s highest court will likely approve granting Michelle Martin conditional freedom, even though she served little more than half of the 30-year sentence she was given for her part in the mid-1990s kidnappings, rapes and killings. One of Belgium’s most loathed criminals could walk free within hours or days afterward.

For many in this country, memories that had been largely buried are now resurfacing.

“We are scared for our children, obviously, for the other children as well,” said Celine Doignies, a bar owner in the village of Malonne where Martin is expected to move into a convent as part of the conditions of her release.

Martin depicted herself as a more passive culprit than Dutroux, acting on the whims of a psychopath. But she is still blamed for aiding her then-husband’s depraved and murderous spree, and is particularly loathed for letting two 8-year-old girls starve to death while Dutroux was briefly imprisoned.

The Court of Cassation will decide on appeals from the prosecutor’s office and the families of victims Tuesday and rule if procedural errors were made in the decision of a lower court to approve Martin’s conditional release. Barring such errors, nothing stops her from leaving prison.

Dutroux, who was an unemployed electrician and convicted pedophile on parole at the time of the crimes, was convicted eight years after his 1996 arrest of abducting, imprisoning and raping six girls between the summers of 1995 and 1996. He was also found guilty of murdering two of the six girls, who ranged in age from 8 to 19 years old.

The two 8-year-olds starved to death in a secret basement dungeon built by Dutroux, who left them in Martin’s care while he was serving four months in jail for theft. The last two kidnap victims came out alive after the police took action.

The Dutroux case was a watershed moment for the nation. It ended decades of social tranquility and rattled the government system as little had since World War II. In a nation of 10 million at the time, one demonstration drew more than 300,000 angry people onto the streets of Brussels to demand immediate change.

Beyond the gruesomeness of the crimes, the population was infuriated by the ineptitude of the police and judicial systems, which allowed several glaring opportunities to catch the criminals go to waste.

An investigator heard voices in Dutroux’ cellar next to the dungeon but didn’t take proper heed. Authorities spread over different judicial districts failed to communicate properly. A parliamentary inquiry laid bare many other ailments in the police and justice systems, laying the cornerstone for reforms.

“We often talk about the pre- and post-Dutroux era,” said Professor Brice De Ruyver, head of Ghent University’s Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy. “It has almost brought the country, at that time, balancing on a state of revolution.”

But when it comes to the judicial system, many people say the reforms did not go far enough, and the Martin case has brought those concerns to the forefront.

Under Belgian law, release is possible after a convict has served one-third of his or her sentence, including credit for pre-trial detention. It is rarely questioned for common criminals, but obviously in Martin’s case, a lot of emotion is involved.

Dutroux himself was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison with no possibility of parole because, the judge said, of “the danger he represents to society.” Some of his victims’ parents are now galvanizing the public once again as they demand that Martin, too, stay in jail.

“What does one have to do to serve a full sentence?” asked Pol Marchal, who lost his 17-year-old daughter, An, in the killing spree.