http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/dutch-deny-belgian-demand-to-hand-over-drug-suspects/article/498964

Dutch deny Belgian demand to hand over drug suspects

Posted Aug 1, 2017 by AFP
The Netherlands on Tuesday refused to hand over eight suspects wanted on drug-smuggling charges by Belgium, seeking more information about the conditions under which they would be detained.
An Amsterdam court voiced concern about the welfare of the men Belgium wants extradited in the wake ...
An Amsterdam court voiced concern about the welfare of the men Belgium wants extradited in the wake of a damning Council of Europe statement last month and amid fears of over-crowding in Belgian jails
PATRIK STOLLARZ, AFP/File

The Netherlands on Tuesday refused to hand over eight suspects wanted on drug-smuggling charges by Belgium, seeking more information about the conditions under which they would be detained.

The eight are sought by Antwerp prosecutors, suspected of being part of an international gang smuggling drugs from South America into Europe.

But an Amsterdam court voiced concern about the welfare of the men in the wake of a damning Council of Europe statement last month and amid fears of over-crowding in Belgian jails.

Belgium's request for the men's transfer cannot go ahead "without further investigation into the detention conditions in Belgian prisons," the court ruled, saying the transfer was suspended so Dutch prosecutors could seek further information.

The specialised international court, which decides on transfers to other countries, said during a recent strike by staff that prisoners were "almost permanently" confined to their cells.

"The court must refuse a transfer if there is talk in the requesting country of a fundamental violation of human rights," it found.

The Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said he had noted the Dutch decision, but stressed the court was seeking "more information" and had not concluded that "in a more general manner inmates in Belgian prisons run the risk of inhumane and degrading treatment."

The anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe in July denounced the "ongoing failure of the Belgian authorities to put in place a minimum level of service to guarantee the rights of inmates during periods of industrial action by prison staff."

It said failure to do so could "result in a large number of inmates being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment" in a situation which is already "intolerable" and could end up "endangering the health and life of these persons".