Police Lawsuit Threatens Freedom of Expression in Belgium

Belgian police are suing three associations over an exhibition protesting police repression, in which Brussels police officers were showed in photographs.

In November 2018, the Belgium League of Human Rights (LDH), ZIN TV and Krasnyi and the Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing Collective organised the first edition of "don't shoot", a collective art exhibition aimed at spotlighting both police repression against migrants, and the social movements and citizens that show solidarity. The exhibition also aims to condemn violations to migrants' right to freedom of expression.

The Brussels police district and four of its officers who recognised themselves in some photographs displayed during the exhibition did not appreciate this initiative, which they claim constitutes a violation of their right to privacy (even though on the photographs show them performing their official duties in the public space).

Under the guise of the right to control their image, they brought a court action against the three associations, claiming 20,000 euros in damages and asking the court to impose daily penalties of 5,000 euros as long as pictures remained on display. This lawsuit blatantly conflicts with the right to freedom of expression and the right to information of the public, and contradicts the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The issues at stake in this trial include the right to record police actions, the right to information and the right to freedom of expression, but also the increasing criminalisation of social movements. These are crucial issues that affect us all.