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No news of Marcel Vervloesem tonight: is he dead?

Jacqueline de Croÿ - 28 juin 2009

Stefaan De Clerk, Minister for Belgian justice, waived on June 24, the arbitrary sanction which maintains Marcel Vervloesem in a disciplinary block of the prison of Bruges. He has authorized his return to the prison of Turnhout, to grant him "more human detention conditions", while waiting for the decision of the Court of the Application of the Sentences, on his request of parole, based amongst other, on the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Marcel was advised of it the next day, has accepted to take back his medical treatment, which he had stopped during 44 days, two months after an open-heart operation and with a fibrillation. He is said to be a "living miracle", for having survived without insulin, passed during 40 days, at the threshold of glycaemia in the blood, which has previously caused him 11 diabetic comas. He should have being hospitalized in emergency, to re-stabilize his glycemia, his blood-pressure, his cardiac rhythm, his liver, his pancreas, his kidneys and hydrate him, except a last hope to kill him. He was left two extra days in the disciplinary block 35. We did not have a news of him this evening. Is he dead?

Marcel is (or was), according to the definition of the services of the Belgian federal authorities, a "political prisoner", because his "loss of liberty (in violation of the fundamental disposition of international laws) is the direct consequence of a patriotic activity", his case for having exposed corruption that covers-up the sexual exploitation of children. The Court of the Application of the Sentences is (or was) supposed to decide of Marcel's release on parole on July 7, maily on the base of the effective practice of torture in the prisons, beyond the individual responsibilities, with a priority to the universal convention of human rights, according to which any individual is entitled to life, to the medical care and safety in the event of disease or disability.

Marcel was condemned for crimes he was physically unable to make and imprisoned in spite of a 4.5 years cancer, left without chemotherapy, in a disciplinary block. He was denied his rights of patients, in process of physical and psychic tortures, with at the beginning, an opposition to a hospitalization prescribed by the doctor of the prison of Turnhout, at the 5th day of diagnosis leaving him only 10 days hope of survival to a suicidal hunger strike. The hospitalisation was replaced by a "dehydration regime" at the medical block of the prison of Bruges. It acts of a boiling water regime on an empty stomach, which causes acute physical pains and prevents that the prisoner can drink more than two cups of water per day, whereas fasting indicates a daily need for three litters of water. The dehydration regime is operated in medical isolation cell, which prevents that the prisoner may have access to fresh water. Marcel was then object of an opposition to hydration during 10 days beyond his fast, until he had a diabetic coma and renal blocking. He was then object of a 50 day opposition to the treatment of his kidneys, including at the time of a second hospitalization in intensive care within three weeks, for a double valvular cardiopathy, caused by the water retention, which resulted from prolonged renal blocking.

The day before a cardiac catheterization, Marcel was imprisoned in a so-called "cell for diabetic", with a mentally handicapped person, who spread his excrements everywhere, diabetes favouring bacterial and mycosis infections. The catheterization is a hemodynamic exploration method which consists, under local anaesthesia, to operate with needle, a puncture in an artery, to introduce a probe in it, which is carried in the various cardiac cavities in order to measure the pressures and the rate of oxygen saturation of blood. Marcel was sent back to prison with an internal bleeding on the level of his femoral artery, which reveals that the surgeon had either pierced the artery both sides by accident and stitched only one side after having removed the probe to close it, or that he forgot about the stitch. Marcel was brought back in intensive care, where the doctors gave priority to his kidneys, operating two surgical operations under general anaesthesia in 24 hours. It was sent back to the cell of the patient who spread out his excrements everywhere. He naturally contracted gangrene, on the level of operation to close the artery. He was deprived of treatment, until he had to be amputated of flesh and bones, which left him a hole of a volume of a half of his fist.

Only one of the two open-heart operations recommended to cauterize the wounded cardiac valves was authorized, following 112 days of delaying tactics, of which 54 days in a disciplinary bloc. He was sent back to this disciplinary block, only 12 days after this operation, where he was chained and shackled on the reanimation table. He was refused any penitentiary leave, so as to weigh further on these exceptional detention conditions.

Marcel was incited to suicide by two doctors that he met in the prison. The first doctor introduced himself as a Member of the Commission of Euthanasia. He just had to stop his medication and carry on eating normally to die in 10 days. The second doctor introduced himself as a normal visitor, but came on a Sunday, when the normal visitors are not allowed, which thus requests a special permission from the direction of the prison. He pleaded in favour of this suicide, saying that by law, the authorities would have to free him. Marcel will hesitate for 53 days.

The psychosocial service of the prison of Turnhout had envisaged granting him an electronic bracelet in May, but the psychosocial service of the prison of Bruges deferred it to the month of August, without explanation. On April 9, 2004, the direction of the prison of Bruges ensured Marcel that the Application the Sentence Court would grant him a semi-freedom regime and an electronic bracelet "in a few months". It was enough to advise Marcel that he had not a chance to leave block 35 during another 9 months, to decide him to commit this long suicide. But he survived 44 days with migraines, vomiting, fevers, nosebleed and giddiness, before the Minister for justice granted him "more human detention conditions", at the prison of Turnhout.

Marcel is not a criminal and even the wardens tell him they don't understand what he is doing there. The prisoners recognized him innocent each time he was imprisoned and in each of the prison where he was sent. They have each time, formed a solidarity ring to protect him and to oblige the newcomers who had lacked him of respect, to apologies, under threat to knock them out.

The death of Marcel in prison is likely to involve uncontrollable violence’s, because it will inevitably be allotted to the after-effects of the "dehydration regime". The prisoners consider these treatments as a repetition of attempt at murder, covered-up by the direction of the prison and liable to be repeated on each one of them. Oppositely as we are told, the riots in the prisons do not originate from the prison overpopulation or the summer heats, but to the tortures inherent to the defect of protection of the prisoners and the serious faults made by the social and medical services of the ministry of justice.

The women of the prison of Bruges filed a collective complaint in March 2008. They reproach the medical department of non-assistance to a woman, who died of a brain haemorrhage 4 days after a medical visit during which she repeated her complaints of extremes headaches and tiredness, but her health care summarized to a disciplinary action. They expose the death of another woman by heart attack, which had been left without treatment in spite of her complaints of the typical pains in the arm preceding a heart attack. They also expose the death of a man, in prison, fifteen days after he underwent the operation of a throat cancer. Marcel is not the only victim, even if political prisoners are rarer than others. He saw a man dying the day after his arrival at the so-called "polyclinic" in wheelchair, one hour after he was ordered to "buzz-off".

A father of 9 children, liable to parole after 7 months, for facts that had happened 10 years ago, will remain an extra 14 months in the prison of Bruges because the psychosocial service reproached him his lack of tact. His wife communicated them her medical dossier, showing she had an advanced cancer discovered in January and saying she desperately needs help, but they don't give a toss: he won't get out before July. If one day of detention costs 105 euros, the "lack of tact" of this man will have cost 44.730 euros society.

The prisoners are horror-struck by the inhumanity of the system and trampling of their rights by the head wardens and the psychosocial services. When they ransack a prison, they ransack the death camp that kills those of their fellow-prisoners, who do not have health to survive it. When they make a thunderous noise by knocking bars and pans, it is that they do not have other way of making known the incentives to suicides, the sanctions which make it possible to shackle them naked in an isolation cell, or the deprivation of health care and food.

Marcel, who was hospitalized 5 times in secrecy, has agreed with a prisoner, to warn us if he would die in prison. We have no news.


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