Police forces have enforced lockdowns in disproportionate ways in Europe’s poorest areas, which often have the highest concentrations of people from ethnic minorities, Amnesty International notes in a new report.
Based on 12 countries, the report “Police and Pandemic,” exposes a worrying trend of racist prejudice within police forces, which are also suspected of institutionalized racism.
Amnesty International said its Evidence Lab “verified 34 videos from across Europe showing police use force unlawfully and, in many instances, when it was not required at all.”
The countries covered are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In Belgium, the national human rights organisation, Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, collected 102 complaints of police abuse between 18 March and 29 May, 36% of them related to unlawful use of force, 21% denouncing insults and 40% coming from ethnic minorities.
“The fact that, in Belgium, representatives of law enforcement unlawfully used force to enforce lockdowns is worrying; we are calling for independent and effective investigations into the abuses,” said Philippe Hensmans, director of Amnesty’s Francophone Belgian section.
“We also view as very problematic the fact that there are no laws explicitly prohibiting ethnic profiling and that our authorities fail to collect precise data on police checks,” Hensmans added.