Atrás Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on its 2001 visit to Belgium

A report published today by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) assesses the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in Belgium. The Belgian authorities have given their green light to the publication of the report, which concerns a visit carried out at the end of 2001.

A limited number of allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials were heard; the CPT has recommended that the Belgian authorities remain particularly vigilant in this area. As regards fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment, the CPT considers that the time has come, having in mind the momentum for change generated by the comprehensive reorganisation of the police forces, to put into practice certain positions adopted at political level, in particular concerning access to a lawyer during police custody.

In its report, the CPT deals with the use of force and means of restraint during the removal of foreign nationals by air. The Committee's findings indicate that these operations involve a manifest risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. The CPT has taken note of the numerous measures taken by the Belgian authorities in order to reduce this risk to a minimum, including the prohibition of any techniques which might obstruct the respiratory tract. The CPT has highlighted other dangers associated with the procedures and methods used, in particular "positional asphyxia". The Committee has also recommended that any foreign national whose removal by force has had to be interrupted undergo a comprehensive medical examination.

As regards the prison system, the CPT criticises the situation in respect of psychiatric care. It has taken note of the Belgian authorities’ decision to close Lantin Prison Psychiatric Unit, as well as of the plans to regroup patients and resources in the prison psychiatric sector. The CPT has also expressed concern as regards the phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence at Andenne Prison and the chronic overcrowding at Antwerp Prison.

For the first time, the CPT carried out a visit to a psychiatric hospital, Jean Titeca Hospital in Brussels, as well as to a juvenile institution, at Braine-le-Château.

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