About 1500 people demonstrated Sunday in Brussels and Ghent in memory of Sanda Dia, a mixed-race student who died following hazing in 2018, denouncing the lenient judgment that benefited in their eyes the members of the student circle at the origin of the tragedy. "Justice for Sanda", "silence kills", proclaimed the placards brandished by the demonstrators in the Belgian capital, largely students and families, according to an AFP photographer.
Another demonstration gathered Sunday afternoon a thousand people in Ghent, Flanders (north), according to the local police quoted by the Belga news agency. It was organised by several anti-discrimination associations.
A phenomenal amount of alcohol
One of the organizers of the Brussels rally, Jean Kitenge, denounced "class justice". "Would the sentence have been the same if the authors had been like me black or Maghreb?" he asked, also calling for "more framing student folklore".
This Belgian-Congolese student, saying he was personally touched by the case, recalled that Sanda Dia, an Antwerp native born to a Mauritanian father, was not from the same social background and skin color as the organizers of the hazing, from the Reuzegom circle. Sons of the Flemish "elite", according to him. The rally was symbolically organized in front of the Palace of Justice of Brussels, nine days after the judicial epilogue, in Antwerp (north), of this case which had a big impact, particularly in Dutch-speaking Belgium.
In December 2018, Sanda Dia, who was then starting her engineering studies at the prestigious Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), underwent a three-day hazing with two classmates. He had to swallow a phenomenal amount of alcohol, without being able to hydrate himself to lower his blood alcohol level, then stay in an icy water hole from which he had emerged hypothermia.
The 20-year-old "hazed" had also been forced to drink a very salty mixture based on fish oil. A sodium overdose resulted in cerebral edema from which he did not survive. He died in hospital two days after being admitted to intensive care.
A total of eighteen of his fellow students, members of the Reuzegom fraternity, were sent to trial to answer in particular for manslaughter, degrading treatment and failure to assist in person in danger.
On 26 May, the Antwerp Court of Appeal sentenced the 18 students to community service lasting 200 to 300 hours, and a fine of 400 euros each. At the hearing in March, the prosecution had asked for sentences ranging from 18 to 50 months in prison. In the press, Ousmane Dia, the father of the victim, denounced a "disrespectful" decision, and criticized KU Leuven for not having sought "the truth" by renouncing to be a civil party.