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(In)justice was served: a case on Sanda Dia



Sanda Dia was a 20-years-old Belgian student, who was studying civil engineering at the prestigious University of Leuven. Coming from a not-so-fortunate background, and being the first member of his family to attend university, Sanda became a member of the student fraternity “Reuzegom”. Reuzegom was a group of elitist, rich, and mostly white students that had a reputation of being ignorant, racist, misogynistic, and had already appeared in Court prior because of the mistreatment of animals during their hazing, and other rituals. Many sons of well-known politicians, lawyers, CEO’s, and other big companies in Belgium were part of this fraternity. Sanda was desperate to get a foot into the door of the future he so dearly wanted, but little did he know joining this fraternity would end up cutting his life short.


In 2018, Sanda was subjected to a brutal hazing that lasted days on end. During the process he had to drink copious amounts of liquor, compensated with not a single drop of water. He had to swallow a life goldfish, and vomit it back up without the fish dying. Additionally, he was placed in a ditch of bitterly cold water where the members of the fraternity poured ice cold water over him, and urinated on him. Lastly, he was also forced to drink unhealthy amounts of fish oil. Unfortunately, the combination of these hazing pledges became fatal to him, as his body could no longer handle the dehumanization he suffered. As Sanda was taken to the hospital, heavily undercooled, his organs were failing, he suffered a heart attack, and sadly passed away two days after the end of the hazing.


The eighteen members of Reuzegom did not waste any time mourning the loss of their fellow brother. Instead, they started covering all tracks that could be used against them in Court. After four years of postponement, collection of evidence, and reversal of judges in avoidance of partiality, the final judgment on this protracted case was released on May 26th 2023.



Now, a week later, I read through the judgment of the case of Sanda Dia with a heavy heart, hoping justice will finally be served. As my eyes skim over the words of the statement, my heart stops and sends shivers down my spine. The eighteen fraternity members were held accountable for involuntary manslaughter, degrading treatment, and cruelty to animals. However, despite the fact that the prosecution had pushed for imprisonment, they were instead given roughly 200 to 300 hours of community service and were all fined 400 euros. Notwithstanding, they were cleared of neglecting to assist Dia or giving him a harmful product that caused death or disease, namely the fish oil. The Court asserted that there was no notice on the fish oil container stating that the intake of that substance could cause serious medical consequences. Additionally the Court claims that even many medical professionals are unable to pinpoint the precise toxic dose of salt consumption, meaning that these boys must have been unaware of the dangers. Thus these eighteen boys could not be held accountable for these matters. Instead, the matter they should be held accountable for is not halting the supply of fish oil when Sanda was showing signs of dissociation.


Ever since this disappointing judgment was released, the streets of Belgium have been flooded by peaceful protestors holding up signs that continue to ask for justice for Sanda. What the Court decided does not serve justice, it simply accepts the untold truths.


One question remains unanswered: how can a group of students get away with the murder of what they claim to be a “friend”? The answer is easy: class justice. Class justice implies that “the principles of justice operate inequitably in favor of one class of people in relation to other classes''. The “fils à papa”, entitled daddy’s boys, that were part of this fraternity know how to manipulate the judicial system in order to shape it to their benefit. Armed with some of Belgium’s finest lawyers, and shielded by blurred faces in the media, it is obvious that some type of favorable treatment was being supplied to them based on their social status among society. It almost seems that, as long as the sentence is a money fee, regardless of the mishaps they get entangled in is perceived as legal, as owing a fine is the least of their worries. The young tormentors, belonging to Belgium's privileged white elite, are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow. Unfortunately, they still will be, as the conviction will not appear on their criminal record it will not constitute a barrier in their further professional life. There may be speculation regarding whether, had the situation been reversed, and an upper-class student had tragically lost their life during a hazing ritual inflicted by individuals with a migrant background, would they have received such a lenient conviction allowing them to evade severe consequences? Although class inequalities are intuitively unjust, the outcome of this case proves that if you have the money and the connections, no matter the crime you inflict, you will be able to dodge the bullet. How can we establish a future where accountability is universal, ensuring that no one, regardless of social standing, can escape imprisonment when proven guilty for murder?




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