BELGIUM: Grounds for Concern: Belgium’s Counterterror Responses to the Paris and Brussels Attacks

"Human Rights Watch’s analysis indicates that at least six of the government’s newly adopted laws and regulations threaten fundamental rights. A law allowing the stripping of Belgian citizenship from dual nationals could create perceptions of a tier of “second-class” citizens based on their ethnicity and religion. An amendment to the penal code that criminalizes the act of leaving Belgium “with terrorist intent” contains vague language that could restrict the travel of people without evidence that they intend to commit or support extremist armed acts abroad. A measure empowering the government to suspend or withhold passports and national identity cards for up to six months lacks the important protection of prior judicial review.

A data retention law that compels telecommunications firms to provide the government with information about their clients upon demand raises serious privacy concerns. A provision that reduces the evidentiary requirements for placing terrorism suspects in pre-trial detention could disproportionately restrict the right to liberty. And a broad measure criminalizing indirect incitement to terrorism could stifle freedom of expression.

A policy that places all prisoners accused or convicted of terrorism-related offenses in prolonged solitary confinement—35 detainees at time of writing—is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and may amount to torture. In one case that Human Rights Watch documented, the prison authorities held a detainee in isolation for 10 months even though by the third month he had tried to slit his wrists. In another the authorities held a prisoner in isolation for eight months despite warnings from prison-appointed psychiatrists that the detainee was “talking to walls.”"

See full article: Grounds for Concern: Belgium’s Counterterror Responses to the Paris and Brussels Attacks (Human Rights Watch, link)


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