Nine of the 14 wardens of Forst Prison who were convicted at first instance of mistreatment of various detainees were acquitted by the Brussels Court of Appeal. The prison warden, who was convicted of negligence, was also acquitted.
A few years ago, the Brussels public prosecutor launched an investigation following various complaints from detainees from one of the wings of Forst Prison. The investigation revealed that the victim had been verbally abused, insulted and taunted. For example, it is said that there was a bet among the guards as to how many prisoners he could bring to the cell in a day. These deportations were often accompanied by physical violence.
The case went to criminal court in 2019 and 22 guards had to answer. Fourteen of them were convicted of inhumane treatment of detainees. They sentenced him to 20 months in prison from his two months with a conditional suspension. The Warden of Vorst Prison was also tried in the same trial. She was given a suspended sentence of negligence for placing a mentally ill detainee in an unregulated cell. The woman appealed, as did all of the convicted guards and prosecutors.
The fact that some guards significantly exceeded the norm was also confirmed today by the Brussels Court of Appeal. Five of them he was sentenced to imprisonment from six months to fifteen months. According to the appellate judge, these were very serious abuses of power and disrespect for the detainees. “You are unfit for the profession of prison officer,” he heard several times.
Nine guards who were convicted in the first instance were acquitted today. The physical violence they used in some cases was necessary and justified to protect the safety of themselves and their colleagues, according to the Court of Appeals. She was charged with having a detainee suffering from mental illness isolated when her cell had to be cleaned for security reasons. The court ruled that the prison was overcrowded and there was no other place to hold him.
Our prison conditions are horrible
“I would say that the prosecutor and the criminal court misunderstood the perpetrator from the beginning,” Master Dimitri De Beco responds to the acquittal. Not adapted to the situation, it was the only decision she could make with the resources at her disposal. said. Finally, the correct culprit is pointed out. ”
According to criminal defense attorneys, the sentencing reflects the malaise within the prison system. Already noted in dozens of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, it may look bad in retrospect, but it is due to the circumstances in which they have to work, and they have been miserable for years I hope this ruling helps them understand that this cannot continue.”
A similar sound can be heard in the guard’s defense. “These people had to work in terrible conditions and do what they had,” says attorney Tom Michelle. “We put people in prison in inhumane conditions and asked them to be treated humanely. One of the most dramatic moments in this trial was when the president asked the defendant who had his training. Only two of them gave him affirmative answers. This ruling is a warning to our prison conditions and the way we work in them. “