Staff received 3 warnings before tortured inmate was found, investigation shows

Staff at Antwerp Prison received three reports about the cell in which a detainee was tortured for days before he was discovered, according to an initial internal investigation by the Prison Service.

The Federal Public Service Justice said on Tuesday that reports were made between the evening of 10 March and the afternoon of 12 March, when the 41-year-old was found with life-threatening injuries in his cell, which he shared with five others. 

The five were arrested and detained, three of them for attempted murder, rape and torture, the two others for criminal negligence. They were also found to have filmed the acts and disseminated the footage.

The facts only came to light when prison director An Janssens was informed. An internal investigation now shows that staff received three reports about the cell in question. 

"The workload and the fact that the offenders took all possible actions to hide their actions meant that these signals did not receive sufficient attention"

On Sunday 10 March at around midnight there was a “commotion” in the cell, on Monday at 17.00 a telephone report was made about the victim, and on Tuesday afternoon a detainee said during meal distribution that there was a problem with another inmate.

“The workload and the fact that the offenders took all possible actions to hide their actions meant that these signals did not receive sufficient attention,” the Prison Service said. “At such times, prison staff focus on the most basic issues (food distribution and medical consultation).”

The union said in its own analysis of the incident that guards were hampered in their work by understaffing and overcrowding, an issue that has led to numerous strikes across the country in recent months.

During the course of the torture, there were two consecutive 24-hour strikes by wardens, from 22.00 on Sunday to 22.00 on Tuesday. On Monday, there were a total of 35 staff – 26 per cent of the usual number – for 718 detainees, and 47 staff on Tuesday. 

“The minimum number of staff required to be present during a strike day was not achieved,” the Prison Service said. “There were insufficient staff to ensure the normal operation of a prison; this shortage was compounded by the large number of inmates.”

The Prison Service says it regrets the suffering inflicted on the victim and wants to learn lessons to prevent such occurrences from happening again.


#FlandersNewsService | Archive image of Antwerp Prison © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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