The broadcast – as sudden as it was unexpected – of the shocking images of the acts of violence, even torture, inflicted by the police on Jozef Chovanec in February 2018 at Charleroi airport remind us of the murders of George Floyd and of Semira Adamou by the police.
Because in the three cases, death was caused by suffocation, resulting in cardiac arrest. In the three cases, police violence was unbridled, demonstrated by ignoring the pleas of George Floyd, by the smiles while Semira was dying, or by the Hitler salute of a policewoman present during the torment of Jozef Chovanec.
But also because, despite the evidence provided by the image – a rare thing – it took a long time, a very long time, before any thought was given to shedding light on these cases and bringing the police, and in particular the executioners, into question. Investigations never take place, or are botched or even sabotaged: police violence, however legion, generally goes unpunished. The forces of public order and the police are only challenged when the public or media pressure becomes too great for the affair to remain stifled by the closing of ranks by the police and the cowardice of institutions and politicians.
Jozef Chovanec’s murder dates back two years, and it turned out that the images were known to exist by many members of the police. The fact that the police hierarchy now states that it did not know of the existence of the video is inexplicable: clearly the police organised to cover-up the events. Yet procedures exist, these may be flawed or unenforced, but they in no way affect the impunity enjoyed by the police, which is systematic … and clearly systemic. To announce the opening of an investigation only following the dissemination of the images by the media is an obscene demonstration of the impunity.
Not only is the victim suffocated, but the events are suppressed as well.
The facts are repeating themselves, illustrated by numerous public testimonies, but nothing changes (nothing positive anyway). We keep in mind the “last eleven minutes of Semira” transcribed from a video of her deportation https://ccle.collectifs.net/Les-onze-dernieres-minutes-de.html. The same suffering, the same tragic end, the same attitude of the torturers, the same denial of responsibility, the cover up of the events surrounding the victim and the case. Same tragi-comic communication from police and political authorities.
Since Semira’s death in 1998, we have witnessed serious violence reported during forced deportations, violence committed by police officers who were voluntary escorts of the federal police at Brussels airport and at Charleroi airport.
In 2019, the Immigration Office carried out 3,743 forced deportations: their statistical table (https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/FR/Documents/R rapport%20statistiques%202019.pdf)
The Office does not mention the presence of an escort during these deportations: however, according to other statistics, 25% of deportees are accompanied by an escort, tied up, handcuffed, and mistreated: figures from MYRIA (https://www.myria.be/files/Myriatics_11-detention.pdf.)
According to the testimonies received, this team of the federal border police does not hesitate to use terrible and illegitimate violence, which could be classified as torture. Insults and humiliations are common. Wide-spread racism and sexism. Several complaints have been lodged against this ill-treatment, although the majority of the victims, once deported, do not have the means to express and expose the violence they have suffered. Once again impunity seems guaranteed.
Testimony: women victims of police violence, one at Charleroi airport, the second at Brussels airport, October 2019 https://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/october-25-2019-all-thats-missing-is-the-cushion-no-more-state-murders/
RTBF 2019 report
Testimony: Violent deportation in Charleroi, 2017. https://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/in-charleroi-airport-passengers-stopped-a-deportation/
Resignation of Louis Tobback Minister of the Interior on 24 September 2003, following the death of Semira Adamou.
Text of the collective against deportations: https://ccle.collectifs.net/la-demission-de-Tobback.html
- We call for the immediate resignation of the current Minister of the Interior, Peter De Crem.
- Stop police violence.
- Stop impunity.
Call for ACTION this 29 August: Stop Deadly Racism and Police Brutality