UN ‘concerned’ about Belgium’s police violence and racial profiling

The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern over the alleged racist violence and profiling by police in Belgium.

The Committee said it was worried by the fact that racial profiling by police continued to be a persistent problem in Belgium and pointed to the absence of any law explicitly prohibiting racial profiling in a report published on Friday.

It also expressed concern at the vague formulation of the motives that could lead to police checks in the law on the function of the police and the absence of data on people targeted by police checks.

The Committee previously set out a series of recommendations in 2020, which it now reiterated:

Belgium should explicitly ban racial profiling;

It should adopt a plan of action against this problem;

It must take actions to promote diversity within the police;

It should improve data collection and set up a system for the registration of complaints related to the issue;

Belgium should use forms that lay out the reasons for police checks and the available avenues of recourse.

On the issue of “police violence of a racist nature,” the Committee said it was worried by the allegations of deaths in custody and of abuses inflicted on members of ethnic minorities, migrants, or asylum seekers.

Many such cases have been reported in Belgian media in recent years, include the death of a Slovak national who had been detained in a cell at Charleroi airport in 2018, the arrest and handcuffing of two children in Saint -Gilles last year, and during the Black Lives Matter protests in Brussels in June 2020 which aimed to highlight police brutality and racism.

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The CERD highlighted that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the relevance of this report, and expressed concern that the abuses had reportedly increased with the enforcement of lockdown measures.

The Committee added that it was astonished that no members of the police had been indicted on racism charges and urged Belgium to take measures to guarantee prompt, full, and impartial investigations into racist incidents involving the police to ensure that those responsible are brought to trial.

On the topic of hate crimes and hate speech, the CERD called on Belgium to provide information on charges and convictions in this regard and expressed further concern at the many offences motivated by race hate reported since the start of the pandemic, specifically the targeting of people of Asian origin.

Further, it said it was worried by an increase in reported cases of hate speech, directed in particular against Jews and Muslims, and at increasingly abusive language on the Internet, particularly against migrants, refugees, and asylum speakers.

The CERD noted with satisfaction that Belgium had passed a law creating a federal institute for the protection and promotion of human rights in 2019, but invited it to take the measures needed to enable it to handle individual complaints, including cases of linguistic discrimination, a complaint often made by Francophone associations in Flanders.

The CERD said it welcomed the “frank” and “constructive” dialogue it had with Belgium, which presented its case to the Committee on 21 April.

The Brussels Times

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