Terror threat prompts France, Belgium and the Netherlands to isolate prisoners in attempt to prevent radicalisation.
European prisons are increasingly resorting to solitary confinement to counteract the threat of terrorism, despite warnings about its impact, defence lawyers and human rights advocates say.
France, Belgium and the Netherlands are all deploying solitary and “small-group isolation” on suspected and convicted terrorists to prevent radicalisation of prisoners.
In Belgium, about 35 people are placed on isolation measures, spending 23 hours a day in their cell and one hour in a small recreation yard, also alone. Four individuals are in solitary confinement on the recently opened de-radicalisation units in the country, with more expected to arrive in the future.
In France, an unknown number of terrorism suspects are being in held in isolation blocks. Over the past year or so, France has also established several dedicated units for deradicalisation, but an apparent lack of rehabilitative or therapeutic programming means prisoners remain in their cells most of the day.
In the Netherlands, where terrorist wings have nearly reached their capacity, men are being strip and cavity searched each time they have contact with a third party or go to court.
“I’m very concerned about political pressures to isolate terrorists and to build special units to isolate them,” said Sharon Shalev, a research associate at Oxford University’s faculty of law and an expert on solitary confinement. “The public, our politicians, and our prison administrations, should keep a cool head,” she added.
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