Belgium: arbitrary state power checked in prison teacher case


Belgium: arbitrary state power checked in prison teacher case

A Belgian court has condemned the government for the way it barred prisoners’ teacher Luk Vervaet from all Belgian prisons in August 2009.

In August 2009, Luk Vervaet, a 57-year-old teacher of Dutch in Belgian prisons and activist campaigning against prison racism, poor prison conditions and double punishment, was unceremoniously barred from entering prisons, with no reasons given (see IRR News story: ‘Prison teacher victim of new McCarthyism’). In a landmark judgment issued on 27 January 2010, the Brussels Appeal Court ruled that Vervaet’s right to fair treatment could not be overridden by ‘reasons of State’. Reversing the decision of the lower court, the judges said that rights which were ‘indispensable for the exercise of his livelihood’ included the right to be told the reasons for the decision to bar him, and the right to a hearing to answer the allegations. The court affirmed that Vervaet’s conduct in performing his teaching duties had been irreproachable, and that the decision of the Ministry of Justice to deny him access to prisons was arbitrary and unreasoned. ‘The rule of law does not stop at the prison gates’, it said.

Following the court’s judgment, Luk Vervaet’s employer, an association which organises educational courses for prisoners, has applied for him to resume his prison teaching, and is waiting for the ministry’s response.

Solidarity appeal

Despite winning the legal principle on appeal, Luk Vervaet must still find the money to pay his legal costs, which run to thousands of euros. If you can make a contribution to his court costs, please send a donation in euros to the campaign, see details below.

Related links

IRR News story: ‘Prison teacher victim of new McCarthyism’

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