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Belgium: Court rules sex offender’s 13-year detention breached human rights law

A decision by Belgium’s authorities to detain for 13 years a sex offender with mental health problems, breached European human rights law.

In today’s judgment in the case of Rooman v. Belgium (application no. 18052/11) the

European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and by six votes to one, no violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European convention.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the European court held that Belgium was to pay the applicant René Rooman EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The case concerned proceedings brought by  Rooman, a Belgian and German national born in 1957 and detained in a social protection facility in Paifve (Belgium).

Rooman challenged his lack of psychiatric care in the facility in which he was being detained.

The court found in particular that the national authorities had not provided adequate care for the detainee because of the lack of care staff who could speak German, the only language he knew and one of Belgium’s official languages.

It held that Rooman, who had been detained for 13 years without appropriate medical support or any realistic prospect of change, had been subjected to distress of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention.

The court observed, however, that there was still a link between the reason for Rooman’s detention and his mental illness. The lack of appropriate care was due to factors unconnected with the nature of the institution itself.

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