European court of human rights condemns Belgium for police violence

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Director of the Schaerbeek youth service, Khaled Boutaffala, won his case opposite the Belgian State at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday, which revealed that he had not received a fair trial when he was convicted of resisting arrest.

The case took place on 28 August 2009, when the lawyer came back from work and was rudely arrested by the police over an incident in Saint-Gilles, in Brussels.

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Denying that he had resisted arrest and hit the officers, the Belgian State admitted in 2017 that Boutaffala had been subjected to police violence and insults.

However, he was still convicted of resisting arrest, which he then contested with support from the Belgian League for Human Rights, who made him a key face and figure for victims of police violence.

On Tuesday, judges in Strasbourg declared the judgement in his favour. It was held that the Brussels Court of Appeal favoured statements made by the police officers who carried out the arrest, even though the government recognised the arrest conditions as being contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court of Appeal had explained its refusal to challenge the incriminating statements made by the police officers because they were confirmed by other police officers who were present at the time of the events but had nothing to do with the case.

According to the ECHR, in the previous police violence case initiated by Boutaffala, these police officers were themselves defendants, and they may have been reluctant to testify against colleagues.

Furthermore, police claims that Boutaffala had hit them were not confirmed by two independent witnesses.

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The Belgian League of Human Rights said that the ruling “sends a strong signal to the Belgian authorities: it condemns the way in which some courts give disproportionate weight to the word of the police.”

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