DUTCH authorities are banging up people suspected or convicted of terror offences in “inhuman conditions” at two top-security prisons, human rights campaigners said yesterday.
In a new report, Amnesty International and the Open Society Justice Initiative said that inmates are routinely locked in their individual cells for between 19 and 22 hours a day and are “routinely and frequently” subjected to “full-nudity body searches that are invasive and humiliating.”
When the prisoners are allowed out of their cells, guards restrict their contact with other people. The groups said this amounted to prolonged solitary confinement, which is barred under international human rights standards.
Meanwhile those charged with but not convicted of terrorist offences are kept in the “terrorist units” (TAs) in the same conditions and alongside those already found guilty.
And those found guilty of terror offences, no matter of what severity, are automatically placed in the high-security units.
“Many of the measures routinely used in the TA can unnecessarily isolate and humiliate people and as such violate the Netherlands’ human rights obligations,” said Doutje Lettinga of Amnesty Netherlands.
The groups also said the units were “characterised by constant surveillance” to the point that inmates “refused to discuss personal and private family issues during visits with loved ones.”
The report, based on interviews with 50 people including 19 ex-detainees, recommended that suspects should not be held together with those convicted of terror offences. It also said people should only be placed in the top-security units based on individual risk assessments.
The report acknowledged, however, that the Dutch government has begun making changes to the system, including using risk assessments to differentiate between “leaders” and “followers” and tailor security measures accordingly.
The conditions at the terrorist units stand somewhat in contrast to the rest of the Dutch penal system, which are largely focused on rehabilitation.
Fewer than 10 per cent of prisoners return to jail after release — compared with about half in Britain. A sharp drop in prisoner numbers has led the Netherlands to close jails, and even rent out cells to Belgium and Norway.