The Brussels Lower Court has condemned the State of Belgium for the overcrowding at the Forest and Saint-Gilles prisons, instructing it to remedy the situation within six months or face fines, Avocats-be reported on Thursday. The ruling was handed down on January 9, according to Avocats.be (the Order of French- and German-speaking Bar Associations).
In 2015, Avocats.be filed three lawsuits to denounce the overpopulation in Lantin, Forest, Saint-Gilles and Mons penitentiaries. A number of (ex)detainees joined the suits.
In October, the Liège lower court handed down a first judgement, confirming that the State was responsible for overpopulation at Lantin prison, and instructing it to take “the appropriate measures”. It also tasked an expert to work out a reasonable timeframe for the State to comply.
The January 9 ruling by the Brussels court goes even further since it orders the State to pay periodic fines if it fails to comply.
Avocats.be President Jean-Pierre Buyle noted that “the Belgian State, despite multiple condemnations, insists on not taking the required measures”, adding: “Yesterday Lantin, today Saint-Gilles with an average 850 detainees for a maximum capacity of 549. This persistent will to be outside the law is unacceptable in a State under the rule of law.”
Detention conditions in the capital’s prisons have often been denounced by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the International Observatory of Prisons and the European Court of Human Rights.
“Even if the overpopulation in prisons has generally been reduced in Belgium in recent years, the situation remains intolerable in certain prisons,” Avocats.be noted.
According to Justice Minister Koen Geens, there were 10,305 prisoners in Belgian penitentiaries as at 27 December last, an overpopulation rate of 11%.