Student hazing: Sanda Dia trial resumes, 18 defendants face charges

A large mural of Sanda Dia, the student who lost his life during a hazing ritual, seen on the facade of the Pieter De Somer aula in Leuven, Wednesday 21 September 2022. Credit: Belga / Ine Gillis

Hazing lead to death

Initiation goes wrong

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The sickening world

Justice for Sanda Dia

Reckoning with verdict

The hazing of Sanda Dia was a tragic incident that occurred in December 2018 in Belgium. Here are some key points about the incident:

  1. Sanda Dia was a 20-year-old engineering student at the KU Leuven University in Belgium. He was a member of the student club called Reuzegom, which was known for its extreme hazing rituals.

  2. On December 5, 2018, Dia and other members of Reuzegom participated in a hazing ritual that involved drinking large amounts of fish oil and alcohol. Dia became seriously ill during the ritual and was later found unconscious.

  3. Dia was taken to the hospital, but he died the next day. An autopsy revealed that he had suffered from severe organ failure due to the hazing ritual.

  4. The incident sparked outrage in Belgium and led to a criminal investigation into the hazing ritual and the members of Reuzegom involved.

  5. In September 2020, 18 members of Reuzegom were charged with manslaughter, intentional administration of harmful substances, and degrading treatment. The trial is ongoing, and the defendants face up to ten years in prison if convicted.

  6. The incident has raised questions about the prevalence of hazing in university and college student organizations, and has led to calls for stricter regulations and enforcement to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

The trial over the death of student Sanda Dia in a KU Leuven hazing ritual resumed on Monday after having been put on hold in May 2022. The prosecution is seeking prison sentences of between 18 and 50 months for the 18 defendants from the Reuzegom fraternity.

Dia was a third-year engineering major at KU Leuven when he joined the Reuzegom fraternity in 2018. In order to become a full member, Dia along with other initiates was forced to complete extreme tasks which included ingesting things not fit for human consumption. The 20-year-old student died as a result of the hazing.

According to attorney general Annelies De Cauwer, all defendants actively and directly participated in the hazing ritual, Belga News Agency reports.

“They helped prepare for the hazing and encouraged students to perform. Without the organisers, there would have been no hazing and there would have been no crime. They are all responsible as perpetrators or co-perpetrators,” she concluded.

The harshest sentence, 50 months in jail, was demanded for A.G., alias Janker, who reportedly took charge during the hazing ritual. Messages were found in which he asked to make the hazing “really brutal.” During the first instance trial, a 60-month jail term was sought. Besides a prison sentence, he also risks a fine of €8,000.

What happened?

In December 2018, on Dia’s second day of hazing, he was forced to drink large amounts of alcohol as well as fish sauce. He and his fellow initiates also had to eat a live goldfish and toast with mouse and eel spread on it.

That same day, he was forced to dig a grave for which he would lie in as Reuzegom members dumped ice-cold water on him. He was then forced to sit in the freezing pit for hours before being taken to the hospital.

Why was the trial put on hold?

The trial was initially put on hold in 2022 because the defendants would not admit who made Dia drink the fish sauce. The judge in turn proposed charging them with assault and battery.

Dia’s family decided to appeal the judge’s decision because they believed that it was important not to disregard the hazing events that took place before the fatal night.

The 18 defendants are being prosecuted for manslaughter. It is now up to the Antwerp Court of Appeal to decide whether the Hasselt court has jurisdiction.

The Brussels Times

Trial on deadly student hazing of Sanda Dia enters fourth day: What happened?

Thursday, 16 March 2023  By Maïthé Chini

Trial on deadly student hazing of Sanda Dia enters fourth day: What happened?

A large mural of Sanda Dia, the student who lost his life during a student hazing, seen on the facade of the Pieter De Somer aula in Leuven, Wednesday 21 September 2022. Credit: Belga/Ine Gillis
As the highly-mediatised trial over the death of Sanda Dia, a 20-year-old engineering student at KU Leuven who died in 2018 after a hazing of the now-disbanded Flemish student club Reuzegom, enters its fourth day on Wednesday, the defence of the 18 accused men takes to the floor.

Dia died of hypothermia and multiple organ failure 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 during an initiation ritual to join Reuzegom. Now, all 18 members of the private student club risk prison sentences of between 18 and 50 months for their role in Dia’s death.

“Nobody will rid me of the idea that Reuzegom is an elitist club with a right-wing, racist and rancid side, and I am going to prove it to you,” said Sven Mary, the lawyer for Dia’s family.

Among other things, he pointed to a speech by Reuzegom member A.G. (who reportedly took charge during the ritual and risks the harshest sentence of 50 months in prison) in which he mentioned “our good German friend Hilter” and asked to make the hazing “really brutal” that year.

Erasing all traces

Mary also emphasised that defendant Z.B. was nicknamed ‘Rafiki’ – the monkey from the movie The Lion King. “The only [other] person of colour in the club is coincidentally called monkey,” he said. Finally, he referred to photos showing Reuzegom members in Ku Klux Klan outfits, which he considers especially important because of Dia’s mixed heritage; his father was born in Mauritania.

He also cited a testimony from someone who took part in the hazing ritual but never joined the club, and did not want to do so afterwards. “They asked how big the driveway of your house was, what kind of car you had, whether there was a swimming pool and what your father did and earned.”

He also went into detail about how the 18 defendants started covering all traces from the moment Dia was in the hospital. Everything was taken down from Facebook, all Whatsapp messages were deleted, Dia’s student room was cleaned, the pit that he was forced to spend hours in was closed and the entire area covered.

“Friends of Reuzegom, enjoy the next few months in which you are still blurred. Sanda Dia’s family does not benefit from people going to jail, but these guys – doctors and engineers of the future – will represent society. It is important that society recognises them for what they are, that they are branded, because they are dangerous, especially in groups, and have no respect. All they think about is ‘me, myself and I’.”

Student club Reuzegom.

Following a statement by his lawyer Tom De Meester, one of the defendants – A.V. – requested to speak himself, and addressed Dia’s family and friends to apologise to them. “I have caused you great suffering and can do nothing more to make it right. I participated in a hazing tradition without knowing the dangers involved, that was incredibly stupid and naive.”

He stressed that he was “very angry” with himself. “Unfortunately, I cannot make up for that anymore and I am very ashamed of it. I stand here in shame. I am ashamed of what I have done.”

Another Reuzegom member, L.L., also spoke up: “I would like to turn to Sanda’s family and express my regret, I condemn myself very much for participating in the hazing and Reuzegom in general. But I want to embrace the reality and bear the responsibility. I realise that, for you, that may be a very poor consolation. But I am sorry.”

Requesting acquittals or community service

Lastly, a third member of the student club took the opportunity to address Dia’s family. “I am extremely sorry for what happened. It is terrible and should never have happened. I want to express my deepest regret and condolences. Not a day goes by that I do not think about Sanda.” He underlined that he was ready to bear his responsibility, but also recognised that it will never be proportional to what Dia’s family and friends have to bear.

Nearly all of the defendants’ lawyers so far have stressed that the men were very young when the hazing ritual took place, that they were peer-pressured by the rest of the group and did not assess the risks correctly.

So far, two lawyers have requested an acquittal for their respective clients, as they only recognise their moral responsibility. According to the defence, these men have already been punished by their environment. The others have all proposed community service.

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In spring 2022, the trial was initially put on hold because the defendants would not admit who made Dia drink the fish sauce on the fatal night of the hazing, something which they have still not done. In turn, the judge proposed charging them with assault and battery.

Dia’s family decided to appeal the judge’s decision because they believed that it was important not to disregard the hazing events in the days running up to the young man’s death, instead of only focusing on what happened that specific night.

The 18 defendants are being prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter.

The Times of Brussels

2 – #12 – Verhalen zonder filter – Robrecht Cleiren, Het verhaal van Sanda Dia #justiceforsanda

Back to menu              IMPORTANT CONTENT        Listening recommended


3 mei 2021 CNR RECORDS

Welkom bij de podcast “Zonder Filter”, de podcast waarbij alle filters achterwege blijven.
Wij zijn Gill en Shauni en nemen jullie mee in gesprekken waarbij we geen enkel onderwerp uit de weg gaan.

In aflevering ‘#12 – Verhalen zonder filter – Robrecht Cleiren’ #JUSTICEFORSANDA, gaan Gill en Shauni in gesprek met Robrecht Cleiren, de beste vriend van Sanda Dia, het verhaal van de jonge student dat niemand ongeroerd heeft gelaten. Hij vertelt wat voor persoon Sanda was, hoe Robrecht die beruchte avond beleefde en hoe hij nu verder gaat met Sanda in zijn hart.

3 Proces-Reuzegom dag 1: “Tot 50 maanden cel gevorderd voor de 18 Reuzegommers”

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Het beroep in de zaak rond Sanda Dia zal behandeld worden vanaf 13 maart 2023. Dat heeft het hof van beroep in Antwerpen beslist. Om te kunnen oordelen over het beroep, wil de rechter dat er ook al meteen inhoudelijk over de aanklachten wordt gepleit dan.

3 – #spraakmakers: “Wie bedenkt het?” – Koen Daniëls

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2 okt 2020

De dood van Sanda Dia, de student uit Edegem die overleed na een doop van studentenclub Reuzegom, laat ook Vlaams parlementslid Koen Daniëls (N-VA) niet onberoerd. In de commissie Onderwijs geeft hij uiting aan zijn walging over wat Sanda Dia is overkomen.

4 Rambam over ontgroeningen bij studentenverenigingen

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11 jan 2018

5 Hoe VER ga je om ERBIJ te horen? | De waarheid over ONTGROENINGEN

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25 sep 2020

Misschien heb je wel gehoord van het gruwelijke ontgroeningsverhaal van Sanda Dia in België. Hij werd gedwongen om urenlang in een put met ijskoud water te zitten, liters visolie en alcohol te drinken en een levende vis door te slikken. Uiteindelijk stierf hij in het ziekenhuis. Maar gaat het er bij Nederlandse studentenverenigingen ook zo aan toe? En waarom zijn er eigenlijk ontgroeningen?

NOS Stories sprak met heel veel studenten over hun ontgroening. Veel mensen zijn positief. Ze zeggen: ja, die ontgroening is even doorzetten, maar daarna krijg je er veel voor terug. Maar er zijn ook heftige verhalen. Zo spraken we een jongen die stopte met zijn ontgroening toen meerdere mensen flauwvielen.

6 Shortlist Brusseprijs 2022: Pieter Huyberechts – Sanda Dia

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16 mei 2022

7  Deadly hazing in Belgium: Was Sanda Dia singled out for being black?

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It has been two years since Sanda Dia was killed in a hazing in Belgium… an often humiliating or violent initiation into a group. At the time, the case was described as a tragic accident. But witnesses have since come forward, suggesting the 20-year-old student of Senegalese origin may have been singled out for being black. As Alix Le Bourdon and Dave Keating report, in Belgium, debates on racism often focus on the country’s colonial past, while omitting the rise of the far-right in recent years. 

8 – 2 advocaten vragen vrijspraak voor Reuzegommers: “Hij was er, maar niet bij betrokken”

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In Leuven heeft de politierechtbank een rijverbod van 2 maanden uitgesproken, op de eerste themazitting rond gsm’en achter het stuur. Vorig jaar in september deed het parket een actie: wie met een telefoon in de hand betrapt werd, kreeg geen boete zoals normaal, maar werd meteen gedagvaard voor de politierechtbank. Vandaag was de eerste themazitting van 5, er kwamen al ongeveer 70 mensen voor. Opvallend, zowat iedereen kreeg een rijverbod opgelegd. Streng, maar het signaal moet er zijn, zegt het gerecht, want gsm’en achter het stuur is spelen met mensenlevens.

9 Belgique : pris pour cible parce que Noir ? Le bizutage de Sanda Dia

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En décembre 2018, quand Sanda Dia perd la vie lors d’un violent bizutage en Belgique, l’affaire est décrite comme un accident tragique. Mais depuis, plusieurs témoignages dénoncent les motifs racistes qui auraient mené à la mort de l’étudiant d’origine sénégalaise. Le jeune homme de 20 ans voulait intégrer un club très sélectif, censé rassembler l’élite anversoise. Aujourd’hui, des militants dénoncent un racisme bien présent dans le pays, à l’heure où l’extrême droite n’a jamais été aussi forte en Flandre.

10 Vader Sanda Dia op laatste procesdag: “Paar schoenen is enige wat mij nog rest van mijn zoon Sanda”

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Op de laatste dag van het proces rond de dood van Sanda Dia is zijn familie aan het woord gekomen. In een emotioneel betoog wees de vader van Sanda Dia met de vinger naar de Reuzegommers en vooral naar hun ouders. Nadat hij in de zittingszaal het woord had genomen, reageerde de vader van Sanda Dia ook voor het eerst voor de camera.

11 VRT | De afspraak – maandag 25 april 2022

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Sanda Dia en de geschorste zitting
Verdeeld Frankrijk
De peetvaders van pop en rock
Twee dagen ver is het proces over de dood van Sanda Dia en daar blijft het voorlopig bij. De zitting wordt geschorst en dat tot volgende week maandag omdat de rechter de aanklacht wil veranderen. Waarom en welke consequenties dat kan hebben voor het verdere verloop van het proces: VRTNWS- journaliste Caroline Van den Berghe, live vanuit de rechtbank in Hasselt.        Macron mag zich de volgende vijf jaar de president van Frankrijk noemen. Uiteindelijk bleek het dan toch geen nek-aan-nekrace te zijn met zijn uitdager Marine Le Pen, maar dat Macron werk zal hebben om de Fransen te verenigen, mag duidelijk zijn. Frankrijkkenners Frederik Dhondt (VUB) en Mia Doornaert kijken naar de toekomst van het verdeelde land.      Twee muzikale grootheden zijn niet meer. Zaterdag stierf Arno Hintjens en vandaag was het van Hennie Vrienten, de zanger en bassist van Doe Maar, dat er afscheid genomen moest worden. Muzikale peetvaders, de ene van de Belpop, de ander van de nederpop. Muziekjournalist Stijn Van de Voorde plaatst hen beiden in de muziekgeschiedenis.

12 Help Me Carry A Box Gag

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Cute girl asks some strong men to help her transport a box. It’s very heavy and also fragile. These strong nice men help her out, until she meets a friend on the way and starts chatting.

Hazing lead to death

Initiation goes wrong

Current Page

The sickening world

Justice for Sanda Dia

Reckoning with verdict