Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 13:56 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - Belgium

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 25 February 2015
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - Belgium, 25 February 2015, available at: [accessed 16 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kingdom of Belgium
Head of state: King Philippe
Head of government: Charles Michel (replaced Elio Di Rupo in October)

Detention conditions remained poor and offenders with mental health issues continued to be detained in inadequate structures with limited access to appropriate health services. In October, the newly appointed government committed to creating a National Human Rights Institution. Transgender people could not obtain legal gender recognition without complying with compulsory medical treatment such as sterilization.

Prison conditions

Overcrowding continued to have a detrimental impact on detention conditions. In March, according to official statistics, the inmate population exceeded the prisons' maximum capacity by more than 22%. In January, the UN Committee against Torture raised concerns about poor prison conditions and recommended greater use of non-custodial measures.

The Committee also highlighted that offenders with mental health issues continued to be detained in psychiatric wards within regular prisons with very limited access to adequate health care. In January, the European Court of Human Rights found in Lankester v. Belgium that the detention of an offender in the psychiatric ward of a regular prison constituted degrading treatment.

Deaths in custody

In 2013, an investigation was launched into the death of Jonathan Jacob, who died in 2010 after being physically assaulted by police while in custody. The results of the investigation and the decision regarding its follow-up, due in October 2014, were still pending at the end of the year.


In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised concerns about allegations of racially motivated violence and ill-treatment by police against migrants, and recommended the strengthening of police complaints mechanisms.

In February, the European Committee against Racism and Intolerance highlighted that Muslims, and especially Muslim women wearing headscarves, continued to be discriminated against in access to employment and goods and services.

In 2013, the Board of Education of the Flemish Community (GO!) confirmed the general ban on religious symbols and dress in all its schools in the Flemish-speaking part of the country. On 14 October 2014, the Council of State found that the general ban violated the right to freedom of religion of a Sikh pupil who was forbidden to wear the turban in a secondary school.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In January 2013, the government adopted a comprehensive roadmap to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In May, a new law prohibiting discrimination on grounds of gender identity and expression was introduced.

While the roadmap included the commitment to amend the 2007 law on legal recognition of gender, plans regarding its amendments remained unclear at the end of the year. Transgender people were required to comply with criteria that violated their human rights in order to obtain legal recognition of their gender. These included psychiatric diagnosis and sterilization, as well as other compulsory medical treatments.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In January the Committee against Torture expressed concerns about the planned extradition and refoulement of third-country nationals to countries that provided diplomatic assurances. The Committee reiterated that such assurances did not mitigate the risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

In September, the European Court of Human Rights found that the extradition of Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian national, to the USA in October 2013 amounted to a violation of Articles 3 and 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Belgian authorities had ignored the interim measure issued by the Court on the extradition.

Violence against women and girls

In February 2014, a country-wide survey undertaken by Amnesty International found that a quarter of women in Belgium had allegedly experienced sexual violence at the hands of their partners and that 13% had been raped by someone other than their partners. A coordinated and comprehensive approach to combat these forms of violence was still lacking at the end of the year.

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