On October 1, about 30 migrants were detained by police on a train in the Flemish Brabant region. While this was happening, a local man, Diego Dumont, was waiting for his daughter on the station platform, and he started to record a video of the scene on his smartphone. He then was subjected to verbal and physical violence by the police officers.
Dumont exercises his right to film police
The images captured by D. Dumont clearly show that he was exercising his right, as a Belgian citizen, to record video of police officers, and that he was subjected to police brutality. Furthermore, the biased description of the facts made by the Secretary of State for asylum and Migration, Theo Francken, during the plenary session of the Chamber, is misleading and politically motivated, as we can see in this video.
The facts described in D. Dumont’s complaint were considered serious enough for the Permanent Control Committee of the Police Forces (the so-called P Committee) to pass on the file to the Public Prosecutor of Louvain. D. Dumont has since decided to maintain his complaint before the Crown Prosecutor, and the Belgian League of Human Rights (LDH) has decided to join in this complaint. This case raises the question of the right to film Police actions in public spaces, which is a fundamental right that is essential in our democratic system.
Police are known for using various tactics to stop people filming them
LDH has noted that this is not an isolated case, as it regularly receives testimonies showing evidence that Police stop, prevent, arrest, or if all else fails, sue people that film them in action. There have been cases in which this illegal behaviour has even affected professional journalists.
LDH believes that it is important to remind both the police and citizens, that it is not illegal to take pictures or record videos of police officers while they are doing their job, except for in some extraordinary and limited cases. Citizens are allowed to make recordings like this to inform, but also to collect evidence on what happened during a particular event. According to the European Commission for Democracy through Law - the Venice Commission - States cannot “prevent participants and third parties from taking photographs or filming police actions (…)."
Independent investigation is needed
LDH calls for a serious and independent investigation into the facts reported by D. Dumont and for the perpetrators of this violence to be identified and punished. The NGO also calls the Ministry of Home Affairs to remind police forces that they cannot prohibit people from filming them.