Monday 17 May 2021

Amnesty report slams inhuman conditions at Dutch jail terrorist units

A prison corridor


Conditions in the Netherlands’ high security terrorist TA units at two jails are inhuman and violate human rights, Amnesty International and the Open Society Justice Initiative said in a joint report on Tuesday.

In some cases, prisoners being held in the Rotterdam and Vught terrorist units are locked up alone for so long it can be considered long-lasting solitary confinement, the organisations say. This is banned under international human rights rules.

In addition, detainees are often subject to repeated full body searches involving them stripping completely naked. The report also points out that many of the people held in the units are awaiting trial and have not been found guilty of any crimes.

‘Persons suspected of involvement in such acts are placed into a regime that publicly stigmatises them with the label “terrorist” and treats them identically to persons who are held there convicted of serious crimes. This seriously undermines the right of suspects to be presumed innocent until proven guilty,’ the report says, adding that people can be held for up to 27 months without trial.

One woman, who was eventually acquitted of all charges, told the researchers she spent 10 consecutive weeks and then another three consecutive weeks cut off from other detainees during her more than five months of detention at TA Vught from 2016 to 2017.


The human rights organisations say the authorities should first assess how great a risk people pose to society before deciding to send them to the specialist units. They also say that detainees who are awaiting trial should not be locked up alone or strip searched until they have been convicted, unless absolutely necessary.

‘Failure to reform current TA policies and practices raises concern about violations of detainees’ human rights and even the TA’s effectiveness in preparing the detainees for life after detention,’ the report says.

‘It is possible that someone suspected, not convicted, of an entirely non-violent crime, like posting something online, could end up being detained alone for up to 22 hours a day for the duration of their stay without ever being allowed to hold their child or have other meaningful human contact with the outside world.’


A spokesman for the justice ministry told broadcaster NOS that conditions at the special units do meet international standards.

However, reforms are under way, the spokesman said. For example, every detainee will be assessed to determine if they are easily influenced or open for dialogue and the two groups will be separated, the spokesman said. has contacted the ministry for comment.


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