Belgian college students sentenced for hazing demise spark racism debate

The tragic death of Sanda Dia, a 20-year-old black Belgian pupil, in 2018 throughout a hazing ritual at an elite Belgian fraternity shocked the nation. Dia was made to eat giant amounts of fish oil and alcohol, swallow a live goldfish, and stand in an icy pit during his initiation into the Reuzegom fraternity at a prestigious university. Downloadable collapsed and died in the hospital, with a coroner’s report attributing his dying to poisonous salt levels from excessive fish oil consumption.
Over four years later, 18 college students have obtained sentences of up to 300 hours of community service and a €400 (US$430; £340) fine each for their involvement in Dia’s involuntary dying and degrading treatment. They have additionally been ordered to pay damages to Dia’s family and two different individuals subjected to the hazing ritual. The courtroom dominated that the scholars, members of the now-disbanded Reuzegom fraternity, were not guilty of deliberately administering a harmful substance causing death or sickness.
Surge of racism throughout the fraternity and suggestions that race and class played an element in Dia’s treatment through the hazing have sparked discussions, significantly amongst younger people on social media and in student circles. Reports within the Belgian media have claimed that some Reuzegom members had been sons of politicians and judges, highlighting their privileged positions in society.
In response to the verdict, many Belgians have expressed indignation, viewing the sentences as overly lenient. The hashtag #justiceforsanda on TikTok has gained over 6.5 million views, and protests have taken place in Antwerp, Brussels, Gent, and Leuven, with one other planned in Brussels.
“Everybody is just indignant and dissatisfied within the Belgian justice system,” stated Eliza Plesea, a 22-year-old pupil and Brussels protest co-organiser. She pointed out that in Belgium, fines for not having a bus ticket are greater than those acquired by the scholars concerned within the hazing.
One of the students’ defence lawyers, John Maes, described the sentences as “balanced and properly reasoned”. However, Jean Kitenge, a protest organiser and student, believes race “definitely” played a part in Dia’s death. He mentioned that while humiliation is frequent in society initiations at Belgian universities, some students are subjected to more excessive therapy than others.
“Justice isn’t for everyone in Belgium,” Kitenge added.
Dia’s household has expressed “mixed emotions” concerning the ruling, together with his brother, Seydou De Vel, stating that there are nonetheless unanswered questions about Dia’s final hours, such as who administered the fish oil. Sven Mary, the lawyer representing Dia’s father, Ousmane Dia, acknowledged the problem for the household not understanding the full information but stated he would not suggest interesting the decision.
Since Dia’s death, the Reuzegom fraternity has been disbanded, and the university, KU Leuven, imposed sanctions on seven college students nonetheless at the institution in 2021, including expulsion and lifelong banishment from registering at the university once more..

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