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Outrage after Brussels police arrest and handcuff minors

Credit: Facebook Screenshot

Footage of two police officers in Brussels arresting two boys aged 11 and 13,  and placing one of them in handcuffs, has sparked outrage and drawn condemnation from children’s rights advocates.

A video posted on social media shows a pair of officers from the Midi police zone approaching two boys in the streets of Saint-Gilles before leading the kids into a police car in an incident from 1 June.

The video shows the handcuffed 13-year-old being led into the car by one officer as the other follows behind, pushing the 11-year-old by his back. Officers can also be seen disregarding appeals from shocked bystanders who repeatedly call out “they are children.”

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Noticing a woman filming the scene, one officer can be heard pressuring her to stop filming, to which she replies: “it’s legal,” before screaming: “It is a disgrace to put handcuffs on children!” as they are put inside the vehicle.

Responding to the footage, Saint-Gilles Mayor Charles Picqué ordered police to carry out an internal investigation on the officers, which his cabinet confirmed was underway.

Picqué also said in a Facebook statement: “Unless the investigation proves the existence of real danger or that serious faults were committed, I condemn the use of handcuffs on minors.”

In an online statement, local councillor Loïc Fraiture said the images were “unjustifiable,” and that his labour PDVA party had already expressed alarm over other incidents involving the Midi police zone, adding that events like this were not isolated.

The police zone is currently under investigation following the death of a 19-year-old in a police chase during an alleged check on lockdown violations and comes as tensions simmer between police and local residents.

No provisions in Belgian law address the use of handcuffs on minors, according to the office of Bernard De Vos, Children’s Rights Delegate for Brussels and Wallonia (DGDE), who condemned the two officers’ actions.

In statements to the media, an unidentified police spokesperson said that the police had been called over a “theft with violence,” and that the officers had chased one of the kids and put handcuffs on him to prevent him from running away again.

The spokesperson added that after the arrest, police learned that the “incident for which they were called changed,” and said the children were attempting to take a moped, RTBF reports.

A spokesperson for the Midi police zone did not reply to a request for comment.

Widely circulated online since it was first posted, the footage prompted DGDE to open an investigation.

In a press release, De Vos called for action in order to “appease relations between police and local residents” and to address “feelings of impunity” regarding police forces.

In an email statement, Lionel Kesenne, a press officer for Picqué’s cabinet, confirmed that both children had been “taken home to their parents after their arrest.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times