The continued imprisonment of serial killed Marc Dutroux serves no purpose, other than to give the public the satisfaction of knowing he is suffering, according to Dutroux’s lawyer, in an open letter published in La Capitale today.
The lawyer, Bruno Dayez, makes his plea for the end to all life sentences, using his client as an example. Dutroux has now been in prison for 23 years, including the time spent on remand before his trial. His two confederates, then-wife Michèle Martin and accomplice Michel Lelièvre, are both free, Lelièvre since only recently.
Dayez has already successfully pleaded for Dutroux to be re-examined by a panel of psychiatrists, to determine whether he remains a danger to society. At his original trial in 2004, the psychiatrists reporting to the court were of the opinion that the killer could not be cured.
As the most hated man in Belgium, Dutroux undergoes in prison a solitary regime. He is allowed out of his cell for exercise, and to carry out cleaning work, but only when other prisoners are locked up. Dayez refers to the regime as a form of “sterile torture,” pointing out that anyone subjected to such a regime either commits suicide or goes insane. And he makes an extravagant claim on the very existence of prisons.
“The prison regime of Dutroux makes of him a flagrant example of this absurdity: our prisons ought not to exist any longer, because they do nothing but make matters worse, without solving any of the problems of public safety.”
Dayez will be well aware, however, of his client’s past. In 1992 he was in prison for the rape of five girls, when he was released early by order of justice minister Melchior Wathelet. That decision freed Dutroux to carry out the crimes for which he is now imprisoned. In 1995 he kidnapped two eight-year-old near Liege, who were later found dead in his basement, having been sexually assaulted and starved to death.
He later kidnapped two older girls in Ostend. They were also found dead later, their bodies dumped in a pit along with that of Dutroux’s associate Bernard Weinstein. Finally, yet again he kidnapped two girl in Wallonia and imprisoned and assaulted them. After a botched police operation that passed within a couple of metres of the imprisoned but still living eight-year-olds, those girls were released alive by a police raid. Dutroux has been in prison ever since.
Public opinion, Dayez admits, makes it virtually certain Dutroux will never be released.. The ultimate decision no longer belongs to ministers, thanks to Wathelet’s performance, but to a panel of magistrates acting on advice from the prison establishment and, in this case, the psychiatric evaluation.
Dutroux’s release, he says, would require the five judges on the court that decides on sentencing to have “the unimaginable courage to go against the opinion of a huge majority of the public. It appears self-evident that Mr Dutroux is to die in prison, by preference by allowing him to suffer in a state of hopeless solitude,” he writes