Brussels attacks trial: Belgian State condemned for strip searches of defendants

Brussels attacks trial: Belgian State condemned for strip searches of defendants
Accused Mohamed Abrini and accused Osama Krayem pictured during a session of the trial of the attacks of 22 March 2016, at the Brussels-Capital Assizes Court, 9 March 2023. Credit: Belga/Eric Lalmand

The Brussels Court of Appeal has ordered the Belgian police to stop the daily strip searches of the defendants in the trial for the 22 March 2016 terror attacks in Brussels.

The daily strip searches of the defendants accompanied by genuflection – forcing them to bend their knees – before being transferred to court have been disrupting the trial since December. Several of the accused have refused to appear before the judge until the practice ceased.

The Belgian State, which justified the strip searches on security grounds, had appealed against a first decision banning the practice at the end of December. Now, the appeal court ruled that the genuflections imposed on defendants during strip searches before each transfer to the court are not provided for by the law of 5 August 1992 on the police function, according to a copy of the ruling sent to Le Soir.

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The newspaper reports that the court also found that this practice was contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting the right to privacy.

Additionally, the court also criticised the use of blackout glasses, stating that they were only authorised for the duration of the journey between the courthouse and the prison in police vehicles transporting the accused.

This means that the Brussels Court of Appeal largely granted the requests of Mohamed Abrini, Salah Abdeslam and the others on trial. All the defendants detained in this trial, except the Swedish man Osama Krayem, previously challenged these security measures in court.

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