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Participants in hazing death of student sentenced to community service and fine

10:16 30/05/2023

The participants in the 2018 hazing death of student Sanda Dia have been sentenced to community service and must pay a fine, an Antwerp court has ruled.

All the defendants were found guilty of assault and battery resulting in death without intent, RTBF reports.

“With regard to this last point, the court noted that all the members of [student group] Reuzegom (KU Leuven) were present during the ordeal,” the magistrate said.

“The victim was encouraged and incited by the whole group to drink fish oil. No one intervened or mentioned the possible consequences. This led to a lack of caution, which led to Sanda Dia's death.”

Despite this, the accused were acquitted of administering harmful substances – including fish oil – that led to his death.

“The court found that the fish oil was freely available and that there was no warning on the packaging,” explained magistrate Els De Brauer after announcing the judgment.

“Experts also stated that the toxic doses for ingesting salt were often unknown, even to doctors. Consequently, the members of Reuzegom were acquitted of administering harmful substances.”

The court also found that all of the students involved in the initiation ceremony had been subjected to degrading treatment: “The fact that people were forced to stay in a well of icy water in the middle of December, that they suffered hypothermai after having to swim in a stream and that they were urinated on to warm them up is, in the court's view, degrading treatment. The fact that these people consented to these acts in no way detracts from their utterly humiliating nature.”

The punishment for those involved is being criticised as lenient, with participants to serve between 200 and 300 hours of community service and pay a fine of €400.

Those who do not carry out their community service will receive an alternative 15-day prison sentence.

The community service sentence will not be entered on the criminal record of the 18 defendants, unlike a prison sentence. The fine may appear on the record, depending on who requests to consult it.

While the relatives of Sanda Dia are pleased to see all the defendants convicted, they sey the leniency of the ruling is difficult to accept, according to their lawyer Sven Mary.

During the examination of the case at first hearing, the president of the criminal court said he could only judge the events that took place during the initation ceremony on 5 December 2018 in Vorselaar, and not all the other events that took place beforehand in Leuven, which, according to the victim's family, played a role in the death of the student.

Sanda Dia's family and the public prosecutor appealed against this decision. In the end, the Antwerp Court of Appeal examined the case in its entirety.

About 100 people held a silent demonstration over the weekend in Antwerp's Groenplaats to condemn the verdict, calling it insufficient.

Written by Helen Lyons



imagine that a white Flemish boy would have been tortured to death. And we should not forget that the authorities reacted only because the New York Times reported on the death of Sanda Dia. Now there is a long article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. We’ll see if NYT will take it up again.

May 31, 2023 09:22

As WK mentioned, I wonder if the same sentence would be given if a white Flemish boy was tortured to death instead. This is someone's life we are talking about here - the verdict is deplorable. My sincere condolences to Sanda Dia's family. I pray that justice will prevail.

May 31, 2023 09:36