Dutch prisoners at Antwerp Jail: “This is torture”

Around 70 Dutch convicts that are serving their sentences at Antwerp Prison have called on the Dutch Government to take action against what they describe as inhuman condition at the jail. The prisoners do so in an article published in Saturday’s edition of the Dutch daily ‘Algemeen Dagblad’. The prisoners say that they are kept in their cells for days on end without exercise, that there are rats in running about in the corridors at the jail and that there is little or no medical care available.

They claim that the conditions at Antwerp Prison are tantamount to torture.  

The prisoners say that they are forced to sleep on matrasses on the ground in overcrowded cells while rats run about in the corridors. They also say that they are kept locked up in their cells 24 hours a day for days on end. The Dutch inmates say that the conditions at Antwerp Prison violate their fundamental rights.

One prisoner told the paper that "I could cite so many abuses.  Intimidation by prison officers, overcrowded cells, poor food, no medical care and being kept in our cells 24 hours a day for days on end. This is torture”.  

Prisoners are kept 3 or 4 to a cell in cells that measure 2 metres by 4 metres. The prisoners say that anyone refusing to sleep on the floor is put in solitary confinement.

The prisoners decided to contact the paper after their conditions worsened due to the recent prison officers’ strike. Police officers took over the duties of the striking prison officers and the prisoners were kept on lock down and were unable to receive visitors. The prisoners also say that they were unable to attend court hearings which harmed their defence.

The three-week strike was suspended last week. However, the prisoners fear new action by the prison officers.

Antwerp prison has a relatively large number of Dutch national among its inmates. Most of them are remand prisoners await trial.