Police Brutality and Racialised Minors in Belgium: Death Threats, Slurs, and Victim-Blaming
Brussels, Belgium – As the riots unfolding throughout France shed much-needed light on French police brutality, too many incidents throughout Europe are still swept under the rug of systemic denial. One such case that has recently occurred in Belgium, provokes further questions about the disturbing reality of police misconduct against vulnerable individuals, particularly racialised minors.
Drunken Belgian Police Unleash Violence on Minors
In early June 2023, a group of Belgian students from Molenbeek, a Brussels neighborhood with one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, found themselves at the center of a harrowing police encounter during a school trip. As they came across a group of off-duty Brussels-based officers on a kayaking trip, the minors were targeted with physically and verbally aggressive behavior.
According to witnesses, the visibly intoxicated police officers:
- Became physically and verbally aggressive, threatening the school supervisor, and charging racial slurs at minors.
- Lied to the local police, victim-blaming the children for the fight that broke out between the officers.
As their colleagues from a local unit arrived to intervene, the implicated officers claimed that the children had provoked them with their behavior. In a desperate attempt to shift the narrative, these officers who endangered minors, sought to portray themselves as the true victims in the eyes of the local authorities. The unsettling reality is that they might have succeeded had the brutality not been captured on video.
- Have been watching the minors outside their schools after having threatened them with violence, and even death.
Despite the evidence, the Brussels police initially refused to register the complaint.
The Power Imbalance: Victim-Blaming and Systemic Denial
Police portraying themselves as the true victims is unfortunately nothing new, perpetuating an alarming pattern of deflecting accountability.
The unsettling reality is that they might have succeeded had the brutality not been captured on video.
The victimhood mentality, deeply ingrained within contemporary policing, has been made evident through movements such as Blue Lives Matter in 2020, and continues to manifest itself whenever officers begin to be held accountable for their violent actions. Just last week, a French police unit declared to be “at war” with the Justice pour Nahel protesters they denounced as “hordes of savages.” Invoking such dehumanising discourse allows the police to position themselves as the true victims and seek political and societal solidarity while already enjoying the impunity that pervades law enforcement and wields absolute power.
ENAR Urgently Calls for Victim Protection and Independent Investigation Bodies
Anonymous testimonies reveal that some of the officers had been observed outside the school watching the teenagers they had openly threatened to kill. While the officers at the heart of this brutal encounter had been placed on administrative duties, nothing is being done to protect the minors, address their demonstrated racist sentiments, or deal with the problem at its systemic roots.
In light of the systematic failure of Belgian authorities to protect the victims and address the clear manifestations of racialised policing and brutality on a systematic level, ENAR calls for:
- Immediate protection of minors subjected to police brutality and threats.
Belgian authorities must not wait for additional lives to be lost before taking decisive action against police brutality.
- The establishment of independent investigation bodies to both investigate and hold accountable police officers who violated the limits of their role;
- A separate interrogation of law enforcement agents must be separated in order to avoid them aligning their stories.
This case serves as a poignant reminder that police brutality is not an isolated incident but rather a symptom of a widespread pandemic, as detailed in ENAR’s report on police brutality in Europe.