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Belgium shamed over human rights

Published on 03/08/2004

3 August 2004

BRUSSELS – Amnesty International slammed Belgium on Tuesday, saying it was failing to respect fundamental human rights.

The leading international human rights organisation said the Belgian authorities had to stamp out police brutality and racism.

It called on them to take speedy action to put in place a string of concerns outlined by the UN Human Rights Committee last Friday.

In a statement, Amnesty said when complaints were made against police officers, they were not always investigated properly and when guilty officers were punished, the sentences were “usually symbolic”.

The UN and Amnesty are also dismayed that the country has ignored a “long-standing call” for Belgium to introduce a law guaranteeing people in police custody the right to inform their relatives of their detention and have access to a lawyer and a doctor.

After the death of Nigerian Semira Adamu in 1998, revised guidelines were introduced for officials involved in deporting foreigners from the country. However, Amnesty and the UN say excessive force is still being used. They want better training and monitoring of escorting police officers.

Nor are they happy about the way an increasing number of rejected asylum-seekers are being released from detention centres by the courts, but ending up in the transit zone of Brussels National Airport.

Being kept for several months in the airport in poor sanitary and social conditions was “inhuman and degrading treatment”, said the UN, and “should end immediately”.

Human rights investigators are also pointing the finger at Belgium for failing to take judicial action against soldiers suspected of human rights crimes in Somalia in 1993.

They also urge action to tackle prison overcrowding, human trafficking and to protect communities in Belgium from racist acts, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim acts.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news