The week in brief: 17 July


No internal disciplinary sanctions for death of Jonathan Jacob, holiday raffle declared illegal, new Linkebeek mayor announced and the rest of the week's headlines

An overview of the week's news

Seven members of Antwerp police’s Special Intervention Team who were convicted this year of involuntary manslaughter for the death in custody of Jonathan Jacob will receive no internal disciplinary sanction, the office of mayor Bart De Wever has confirmed. Disciplinary measures can only be taken in cases of deliberate acts. A spokesperson for De Wever said the decision did not imply a judgement of the appeal court’s ruling.

A scheme in which employees of B&A Technics in Haaltert in East Flanders could win one of two holiday tickets in a raffle has been declared illegal by labour law specialists. The prize draw excludes anyone who has been sick in the previous two months and is therefore discriminatory, according to unions and labour law experts from the University of Leuven, De Standaard reports. 

Valérie Geeuricks has been nominated as mayor of the Flemish Brabant municipality of Linkebeek by Flemish minister Liesbeth Homans. Two previous nominees put forward by the French-speaking majority on the council were refused because of breaches of the language laws. Geeuricks is a French-speaking member of the council previously responsible for culture, information and the middle class, elected for FDF but now sitting as an independent. She is the municipality’s first female mayor.

Jan Peumans, speaker of the Flemish parliament, has announced he will be stepping down after the regional elections in 2019. He will stand for N-VA to lend his considerable electoral draw to the party but will not take up his seat if elected, for personal reasons. “I have had a fantastic wife for 45 years,” he told the Belang van Limburg. “I was always away from home. I saw far too little of my children and grandchildren. That’s why I’m closing this chapter.” Peumans will be 68 when the elections take place. 

Belgium’s ban on wearing a partial- or full-face covering like the burqa in public is not in breach of the European convention on human rights, the European Court in Strasbourg has said. The court was ruling in two cases, one which had already been upheld by the Constitutional Court in 2011 and a second upheld by the Council of State in the same year. The case in Strasbourg was based on the articles of the convention covering privacy, religious freedom, freedom of expression and discrimination.

The federal equal opportunities agency, Unia, has said a ban imposed by some municipalities on the burkini – full-body swimwear designed to preserve the modesty of Muslim women – has no basis in law. Unlike the burqa, the burkini does not hide the face of the wearer, which is the essential aspect of the burqa ban. The burkini ban is also not justified on the grounds of hygiene or safety, the organisation said. 

Former federal police chief Fernand Koekelberg will not go on trial for fraud in relation to a trip he took with a colleague to Qatar, having used official funds to buy Delvaux luggage for the trip, where Koekelberg was to lobby for a post with Interpol. The committal hearing ruled that there had been administrative errors but that there was no question of fraudulent intent.

Gary Meskil, the singer with American metal band Pro-Pain who was the victim of a savage attack in the centre of Brussels this month, has thanked the police and the staff of the Sint-Pieters hospital. “I want to make clear that this incident has not changed my opinion of Brussels and her people,” he said. “This could have happened anywhere. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong moment.” Meskil suffered fractures to his face and jaw and was in a critical condition for a time. A man has been arrested in connection with the attack and charged with attempted murder. 

The municipalities of Deinze and Nevele are the latest in a list of towns wishing to merge, in their case to become the fifth-largest municipality in East Flanders with 43,000 inhabitants. The Flemish government offers merged municipalities €500 in debt write-off for each inhabitant, up to a maximum of €20 million.

Police, forest rangers and other officials will take part in a week-long clampdown on fly-tipping and littering in the third week of September, as the culmination of a summer campaign to encourage motorists using motorway car parks to use rubbish bins properly. Organisers said the clampdown would involve fines for offenders, but the emphasis was on raising awareness of the problem of rubbish, 3,000 tonnes of which has to be collected from along Flemish roads every year. 

Unless budgets are increased, the Flemish TV industry will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities available, according to Pierre Drouot, director-general of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund. Speaking to the Flemish parliament, Drouot compared Flanders with Denmark, which has made a number of highly successful series in recent years like Borgen and The Killing. Flanders is heading in the same direction but more money is required, he said. According to a recent study commissioned by media minister Sven Gatz, the TV fiction industry needs a minimum of €9.5 million a year, and ideally €13.6 million.

Photo courtesy B&A Technics/Facebook