Case Studies

Vincent: Violence in pre-trial detention


Vincent, a Belgian national detained in the Brussels pre-trial detention prison (St. Gilles), was subjected to a cell and body search in January 2015. According to his and other detainees’ reports, the guards had beaten him during the searches.

One guard confronted him with a mobile phone he was not supposed to have and after Vincent denied that the phone belonged to him, hit him in the face. After the search, Vincent was left with a black eye. No guard was hurt.

According to the guards who were performing the searches, Vincent became aggressive after being confronted with a mobile phone he had in violation of the prison’s rules. An altercation followed when they handcuffed him, but they denied beating him.

As a result of the incident, a disciplinary proceeding was launched by the director against Vincent. At the disciplinary hearing, the director heard the detainee and his lawyer, but the guards involved in the incident were not present. The lawyer found out later that an internal investigation into the guards’ behaviour had been conducted by the director involving only the guard, who made a written declaration.

The director dismissed the violence claims and sent Vincent to solitary confinement for 9 days. Only after communicating this decision did the lawyer receive a copy of the written declaration made by the guard describing his version of the facts.

Vincent’s lawyer introduced an urgent complaint to the Conseil d’Etat to quash the director’s decision to place him in solitary confinement and to introduce a request to have him placed under medical supervision because of his injuries. The lawyer motivated the request by referring to the fact that a) Vincent had been hurt, b) the guards were not hurt, and that c) no clear information had been given in time to neither Vincent nor his lawyer as to the guards’ version, therefore preventing them to prepare a fair defence.

The Conseil d’Etat accepted the complaint and ordered the release of Vincent from solitary confinement.