Monday, November 22, 2010

Letter from Council of Europe Paliamentary Assembly Member on Excessive use of force against Belgian Demonstrators

Parliamentary Assembly Assemblee parlementaire
Council of Europe * Counseil de L'Europe

Doc. 12433
5 November 2010

Excessive use of force against Belgian demonstrators

Written question no 590 to the Committee of Ministers
presented by Mr Lindblad

According to the Human Rights League and Amnesty International, among others, the Belgian police used excessive  force  and  illegal  methods  against  peaceful  demonstrators  representing  the  No  Border  Camp movement on their way to an authorised demonstration on 1 October 2010. Reportedly, at least 500 mostly ‘preventive’ arrests took place, and 14 people were seriously injured.
Whereas the alleged vandalism that some members of the No Border Camp movement had used against the offices  of  Frontex,  IOM  and  a  number  of  police  precincts  on  previous  days  is  to  be  condemned, there  is serious reason for concern for the curtailment of the right to assembly and the right to free speech as well as for  the  violence  that  the  Belgian  law  enforcement  authorities  allegedly  resorted  to  against  peaceful demonstrators.

The  allegations  of  police  violence  include:  unprovoked  violence  using  fists,  batons,  pepper  spray;  holding people  in  stress  positions  without  food,  water,  sanitation  for  long  periods  of  time;  beating  up  shackled prisoners;  threats  of  sexual  violence  towards  women;  and  theft  of  money  and  other  personal  belongings.

This is clearly unacceptable.

These allegations have been dismissed by the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, despite numerous testimonies
by witnesses of that day. No serious and impartial investigation has so far been undertaken into the above
allegations, despite calls from Amnesty International and others.

It is important that the Council of Europe stands up for every citizen’s right to freedom of speech, freedom of
peaceful demonstration and assembly. These rights are all stipulated in the European Convention on Human
Rights, which Belgium is committed to uphold.

It  is  equally  of  paramount  importance  that  Belgium  carries  out  -  without  further  delays  -  an  impartial  and independent  investigation  into  the  allegations,  take  any  measures  necessary  to  sanction  illegal  police behaviour and ensures that a culture of impunity does not spread in the police forces. It should review its demonstration  policing  procedures  to  ensure  demonstrators  can  identify  every  individual  policeman  in uniform, ban the wearing of face-hiding masks by riot police, etc.

Mr Lindblad,

Ask the Committee of Ministers :

to raise the above concerns with the Belgian authorities and to request that :

- Belgium lives up to its obligation as member state of the Council of Europe to guarantee that its statutory
obligations to respect the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights are fulfilled;

- the Belgian authorities report back to the Committee of Ministers, within a reasonable but tight deadline,
about the results of a credible investigation into these allegations, and of the steps they propose to take with
a  view  to  uprooting  violence  and  impunity  within  the  police  force  and  improving  standards  of  policing procedures. 


LINDBLAD Göran, Sweden, EPP/CD

F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex   |   Tel: + 33 3 88 41 2000   |   Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 33

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