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CAT status Status under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment State Party since 25 June, 1999
Reviewed 2021 Read review


At a glance

Belgium ratified the Convention against Torture in 1999 but has still not ratified its Optional Protocol, despite signing it in 2005.

The country faces a structural problem of prison overcrowding with dilapidated prisons and limited access for prisoners to health care and sanitation facilities. During the Covid-19 crisis, the authorities imposed lockdowns in some prisons and suspended visiting rights for prisoners who were locked up for up to 23 hours a day in their cells.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty and on Human Rights and Migrants have concluded that approximately 150,000 irregular migrants in Belgium are exposed to abuse in their

work in the informal economy and have poor access to health, housing, education, and justice. Others have been sent back to their countries of origin, where insecurity is widespread.

The Committee against Torture was particularly concerned in 2021 about the prevalence of ill-treatment and the excessive use of force by the police, which may have led to the death of persons under arrest, particularly during demonstrations and gatherings banned because of the pandemic between 1 April and 1 May 2021. The Committee also deplored the lightness of the criminal sanctions and the ineffectiveness of the investigations carried out by the members of the police force responsible for detecting institutional malfunctions.

Femicides and gender-based assaults remain rampant. According to a recent survey, 81% of women aged 16 to 69 say they have been victims of such violence.

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