Contributor(s)International Prison Observatory - Belgian section

Physical integrity

The death penalty was formally abolished on July 10th 1996. The death penalty had not been enforced since 1950.

Suicide statistics are published by the prison administration. Numbers are not always accurate and some deaths, including overdoses, are not recorded. Suicide-prone individuals including those on remand, those facing their first incarceration, long sentences, etc. are not identified or flagged by the administration.

Other causes of death are covered by patient-doctor privilege and thus are not disclosed by the administration. The prisons of Bruges and Saint-Gilles have the highest death rate. The reason for this, according to the administration, is that these prisons include medical facilities called CMC’s (Centres Médico-Chirugicaux). Prisoners suffering severe illnesses are usually transferred to these facilities.

Number of deaths



Suicide rate in detention



Collective and individual acts of violence reported by prisoners often result in prisoners being punished themselves for reporting the incident to the administration. The identities of prison guards responsible for such acts are usually known to the administration. Sanctions are delayed or ignored for fear of reprisal by guards (through strikes, etc.). Most of the time, sanctioned prison guards are relocated to a different section or transferred to another prison.

Following a number of formal complaints by prisoners, some guards of the Forest Prison were arrested in June 2015. The guards were suspected of being a part of a group of prison guards calling themselves “the SS” and were charged with harassment, premeditated bodily harm and battery with permanent injury against vulnerable people. Some guards went on strike following the indictment.

Filing complaints is difficult, as many prisoners have no way to formally identify guards. Most guards habitually hide their identification under their shoulder pads.

Inmates rarely report sexual violence because of the shame it brings. These reports can also provoke harsh retaliation by prisoners and guards. Sexual violence cases involving medical staff and inmates at the Lantin prison have been reported.

Instances of verbal and physical violence by ‘stand-in’ guards during strikes have also been reported. Official medical reports are difficult to obtain following an incident and the police or guards rarely punished even when formal complaints are filed.

Suspicious deaths are frequent but are viewed on a case-by-case basis, preventing trends from being identified. The administration does not publish any data regarding these incidents.

No case has been reported.