Reuzegom: what happened during Belgium's deadly student hazing?

Reuzegom: what happened during Belgium's deadly student hazing?
A student hazing in Belgium. Credit: Belga

Eighteen members of the now-disbanded Flemish student club Reuzegom risk years of imprisonment for the death of Sanda Dia, a 20-year-old student who died after a hazing in 2018, after details of his death were made public.

Dia, who was a 20-year-old civil engineering student at the university of Leuven, died of hypothermia and multiple organ failure during an initiation to join student club Reuzegom, after drinking large amounts of alcohol and fish oil, and standing in a cold pool of water in December for an extended period of time.

The university imposed 30 hours of community service on the students involved in the hazing, and made them write a paper on the history of initiation rituals.

After Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad published a reconstruction of the last 30 hours of Dia's life, the case gained attention again as many - students, professors and the general public alike - believed the punishment to be too mild.

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In the reconstruction, it became clear that Dia, as well as two other students undergoing the same hazing, had to drink something called 'schachtenpap', a brew of fish oil, in which live goldfish, mice and an eel were mixed. They had to dig the water hole in which they had to stand in, after which they were urinated on repeatedly.

When Dia was brought to hospital after several hours, his body temperature was 27.2 degrees.

In recent days the case saw new developments, as the then-president of the organisation that brings together the student clubs of Leuven, Loko, revealed via Twitter and in Flemish press that Dia, whose father is of Senegalese origin, was allegedly subjected to racist remarks by members of Reuzegom.

"Two months before his death, we were informed of a racist incident in our Albatros event room. The club in question was Reuzegom. The target was Sanda Dia. Two months later, Sanda died during a hazing organised by Reuzegom," tweeted Kenny Van Minsel.

According to him, insults including the n-word were yelled at Dia, after which he was ordered to clean up the mess after one of Reuzegom's student drinking events, because "blacks should work for whites," they reportedly said.

The investigation into Dia's death, initially in the hands of the Antwerp public prosecutor's office, had been transferred to the Limburg public prosecutor's office because it became known that a judge of the Antwerp court had a family link with a member of Reuzegom.

Almost all of the parents of the Reuzegom members are successful lawyers, magistrates and dentists. They saw themselves as "the potential elite" of Flanders, according to a legal document, reports De Morgen.

The public prosecutor wants to prosecute the 18 club members for administering harmful substances, unintentional manslaughter, degrading treatment and refusal of assistance due to guilty negligence. They all risk a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

On 4 September, the Council Chamber will decide whether or not to refer the case to the criminal court.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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