A group of 14 prison guards from the prison of Forest in Brussels are to appeal against sentences they received for ill treatment of prisoners, defence lawyers have announced. The sentences handed down this week by a court in Brussels were already being described as “lenient” – between two and 20 months in prison, all sentences suspended. The 14 officers sentenced were among 22 accused, including the director of the prison, who was accused of criminal negligence.
The court heard how the accused officers had humiliated, provoked and chastised prisoners, as well as using excessive force. The guards had become known as the “SS” among those aware of their practices, the court heard. The director of the prison was accused of allowing such practices to go ahead without taking action. The offences took place in 2014-2015. Prisoners had been harrassed by being deprived of drinking water and being left in the showers with no water to rinse themselves.
The prosecution had demanded sentences of five years against all involved. Instead, the court found the director and two officers were found guilty, but given no sentence. Five officers were acquitted. The remaining 14 were given suspended sentences.
The judge in the case recognised the difficult circumstances in which the officers work. One of the acquitted officers explained: “We are trying to do our jobs in very difficult circumstances, faced with Syria fighters, terrorists and murderers who listen to nothing and no-one.”
Now all 14 have announced their intention to appeal. One convicted man told Bruzz: “I got 15 months suspended because I took a resisting prisoner out of his cell using an armlock, on the orders of the director, just as I was trained to do,” he told the paper. “That judge needs to come and explain to us what he thinks we need to do to get that sort of rampaging prisoner under control.”