Belgium violated the rights of a man who is currently jailed for several murders committed in the 1970s and has been consistently denied early release since then, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Tuesday.
Freddy Horion, born in 1947, has been detained since 1979 for murdering a family of five, while having previously been found guilty of another murder, according to the court’s ruling.
He was sentenced to death by a Belgian court in 1981 — a sentence which was later commuted to life imprisonment.
Horion is now in a “predicament” as he has “no realistic prospect of release,” which is a violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights on torture and inhuman treatment, the ECHR said Tuesday.
Horion has been eligible for early release since 1993. In the following decades, he filed dozens of requests, which were all denied on the grounds that he was still a danger to society.
In March 2017, a group of psychiatric experts found that further extending his time in jail was “not appropriate either in terms of public safety or with a view to his resocialization and reintegration into society.”
Horion, the experts argued, should be admitted to a “legal psychiatric unit” instead.
But under Belgian law, convicted criminals are not allowed to access these facilities — which led a Belgian court to once again deny him early release with electronic surveillance, in June 2018.
Based in Strasbourg, the ECHR is attached to the Council of Europe, a 46-state human rights organization. Its rulings are legally binding, and member countries are obliged to comply.