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United States Intervention at the 11th Session of the UPR Working Group – Belgium
May 4, 2011

The United States welcomes the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister His Excellency Mr. Steven Vanacker and the entire delegation to the UPR Working Group. We have carefully reviewed the report and listened closely to the Deputy Prime Minister’s presentation, and would like to offer the following observations and recommendations. We commend Belgium for its demonstrated commitment to human rights, as evidenced by its exemplary constitution and its active international promotion of human rights, including its leadership in this body. In that regard, we note that not only do your colleagues behind you deserve recognition but also a few that are seated in front of you.

The United States commends Belgium for proposing measures to combat employment discrimination, though we note that the ILO has requested information on steps taken to ensure that members of ethnic minorities have equal access to vocational guidance, training, and placement services. We also note reports of de facto discrimination against migrant workers and their families, members of the Muslim community, and Roma.

The United States expresses its concern over conditions in prisons and detention facilities in Belgium. Some facilities are overcrowded and in need of repair, and inmates subject to different custodial regimes are sometimes placed together. A 2009 Council of Europe report estimated that 75 percent of all prisons were overcrowded. We note that Belgium addressed some of these issues in its national report and we greatly appreciate the further detailed information just provided by the Deputy Prime Minister. We hope these efforts address the situation wherein a steady stream of incarcerations still outpaces construction and refurbishment of prisons, and those on pretrial detention accounted for 34 percent of the prison population.

Bearing in mind these concerns, the United States offers the following two recommendations:

1. That Belgium enhance its efforts to reduce prison overcrowding.

2. That Belgium take measures to reduce the amount of time that defendants spend in pre-trial detention.