Legal experts and academics call on Belgium to repatriate imprisoned aid worker
24 January 2023
In an open letter, some 80 academics and legal experts demand the Belgian authorities to "do everything possible to put an end to these serious violations of fundamental rights and repatriate Olivier Vandecasteele to Belgium without delay." The aid worker has been detained in Iran since February 2022.
After the daily press, Belgian cultural and sports personalities, Belgian and French writers and philosophers, some 80 academics and lawyers draw attention to the situation of Olivier Vandecasteele in an open letter to the Belgian authorities.
"Olivier Vandecasteele's life is in immediate danger," they state. "It is seriously feared that he will not be able to survive the unbearable conditions of his detention for much longer."
Late last year, the Belgian government did try to strike a deal with Iran when a prisoner swap was proposed between Vandecasteele and Assadollah Assadi. However, the deal was called off by Belgium's Constitutional Court for fear that the convicted Iranian terrorist, currently detained in Belgium, would escape punishment in Iran.
Former vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights Françoise Tulkens is also concerned about Vandecasteele's treatment: "At the time of the suspension decision, Olivier Vandecasteele was still 'just' arrested and detained. However, shortly after the Constitutional Court ruling, he was convicted, and his situation became very different."
"Faced with a situation that is now going to last a long time, given this conviction, I understand very well that at some point, we have to invoke the state of emergency," Tulkens said. "We can no longer accept people saying 'there is nothing to be done'."
Earlier this month, Vandecasteele was sentenced to 74 lashes and 40 years in prison. The charges against Vandecasteele are "espionage and undermining national security". Vandecasteele had been working for international NGOs in Iran for over six years.
January 22, 2023, Brussels, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium: A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against the detention of Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele organized by the Olivier Vandecasteele Support Committee and Amnesty International in Brussels, Belgium, on January 22, 2023. Vandecasteele was arrested in Iran in February 2022 and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
© Valeria Mongelli/ZUMA Press Wire