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76 reports of excessive violence by Brussels police during lockdown
There were 76 reports made of the Brussels police using excessive force during the coronavirus lockdown. Some of them were reported to the interfederal anti-discrimination agency Unia, but most of them were filed with the Ligue des droits humains (LDH), which investigates allegations of discrimination in Wallonia and French-language Brussels.
LDH’s Police Watch department is dedicated to monitoring police brutality and excessive violence. Complaints include police using inappropriate language, unnecessary searches or use of handcuffs and rough physical treatment, including beatings, which have led to injuries.
A full report of the incidents will be released in about a month’s time. “Of course many, many incidents remain under the radar,” LDH director Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty told Bruzz. “Most people don’t file a complaint, sometimes because they are afraid to. In any case, we will look into what we can do at different policy levels to change these police practices.”
‘Poverty and racism’
Both LDH and Unia also received complaints from Flanders and Wallonia, but the majority came from Brussels, particularly where LDH is concerned. Some of the incidents made it onto social media and into the press, such as the beating of a Sudanese migrant and problems that followed the death of a teenager in Anderlecht.
Police Watch is investigating the allegations to formulate recommendations to local, regional and federal governments. It can also determine if there are specific police officers who are guilty of aggressive behaviour.
The department also advises people who have filed a complaint about their rights and options. “We can see that it is largely the poorer neighbourhoods that are affected, and that racism is a major factor,” said Police Watch co-ordinator Saska Simon. “Also, young people and activists are victimised more often. But a study is really needed to properly document all of this.”
Photo ©Benoit Doppagne/BELGA