Little torture in NL, but Antilles are less safe, report finds

Vught high-security jail in Noord-Brabant. Photo: Mystro82/Wikipedia

A report from the Council of Europe’s Anti-Torture Committee finds little evidence of torture in the Netherlands itself but significant problems in detention facilities on Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

The committee was also critical of security measures at the high-security prison in Vught.

The report is part of a periodic review of countries that have signed the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a 1987 treaty that requires states to allow inspections to ensure they aren’t committing human rights violations.

The Netherlands was broadly found to be upholding its obligations under the convention. Inspectors took issue, however, with some of the facilities at Vught, citing poor ventilation and vermin infestation. There were also concerns about the excessive use of restraints.

The police and immigration officials were also broadly seen as abiding by the convention’s standards, though the report did caution Dutch authorities that asylum seekers should not be subjected to “prison rules.”

At an immigration detention facility in Rotterdam, allegations were made against staff for using abusive language and excessive force.

Facilities on the Dutch Antillean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten had significantly more problems. The report notes staff at a detention facility on Arbua were “openly hostile and aggressive” to investigators themselves.

Accommodations at some of the prisons in the islands were substandard, with prisoners housed in “dilapidated, dirty cells which were infested with vermin” and mold on the walls.

The Dutch authorities provided a detailed response to the findings. In response to a recommendation that detainees not be fully nude during body searches, the government replied “At the present time it is not yet possible to conduct strip searches by alternately removing clothing above and below the waist.”

The Netherlands did indicate that the facilities at Vught were scheduled for renovation in the next two years.

The committee last visited the Netherlands in 2016 and also concluded then that conditions in detention facilities were broadly good.

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