Open letter in relation to the Chovanec case


The antecedent of this letter is that in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, an attempt was made to silence a sad, tragic case hitherto unprecedented in Europe. In terms of circumstances, the case is eerily similar to the case of George Floyd that occurred in Minnesota, USA, where police officers knelt at length on the chest of a helpless man who died as a result of these measures. The severe brutality of the Belgian police, but especially its secrecy, has stirred up a scandal within the Community, and might deeply shake the faith of European citizens in legal certainty and justice.


The main character of the fatal case is a Slovak man, in the case of whose his wife requested a new investigation in August. Her husband, Jozef Chovanec, died in the custody of the Belgian police two and a half years ago, in February 2018. Chovanec was detained at Charleroi airport in the Walloon region of Belgium after showing signs of confused behaviour on a flight there. Chovanec hurt himself in his cell, because his head, which he beat into the wall, began to bleed. He was in a coma after being taken to hospital and died the next day.

According to an official report, the thirty-eight-year-old Chovanec died of a heart attack. However, on the basis of the recordings that have been made public, it turned out that during the action, the already-wounded Chovanec was laughed at by the police officers entering his cell.  They behaved in a humiliating way with the inmate, who was injured on his head, and one of the Belgian police officers even showed a Nazi salute.

The recordings clearly show that instead of help, they first started to discipline Chovanec - who was not aggressive at all, just confused. It can also be seen that one of the police officers sat on the detainee's chest for eighteen minutes before the Slovak man did not feel well. Due to the latter momentum and the general atmosphere and spirit of the aggressive police action, many opinion leaders and the shocked public opinion in Europe have discovered a parallel between his case and the tragic death of the American Floyd this spring.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on 25 May 2020, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, acted extremely violently against an Afro-American man named George Floyd, who lost his life as a result of the action. Floyd died as the Minneapolis police officer knelt on the man's neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. The American incident, which was also videotaped, rightly received huge media coverage and provoked outrage not only in the United States, but worldwide.

However, it is shocking to face the fact how different a significant proportion of Western public attitude is to the two cases, and how different it considers the matter of the two people who lost their lives for nothing, especially in connection with informing about and treating the more recent case, which has been attempted to be covered up for years. Robert Fico, who was twice the prime minister of Slovakia, could rightly feel that in such circumstances there was little that his country's diplomacy had done so far on the matter, and he therefore called for parliamentary intervention. Unfortunately, it no longer seems unfounded to see or suspect that such a thing could hardly have happened if the victim of the Belgian police action had been a citizen from another Western European country.

Western European political and media elites are far from giving the issue a proper weight, and many prefer to turn a blind eye to the fact that such cases may occur at all in the heart of the European Union's political community, in Belgium, where the majority of the integration institutions also operate.

This case could happen to an EU citizen from Central and Eastern Europe, while some countries in the region are constantly criticised by the institutions in Brussels dominated by Western politicians, preaching about the principles of the rule of law, in a lecturing manner.

It is no exaggeration to say that the described police case of Chovanec and his tragic death is the European George Floyd case. We dare to state this because we firmly believe that all lives matter. This is one of the basic tenets of our civic and Christian civilization, and therefore, in solidarity with the relatives of the deceased Slovak man and his wider community, we urge to use the strength of diplomacy and, if necessary, some of its means, so that such a case should not happen again. Also, that this specific case and similar, possibly unexplored cases, should no longer measured by the double standard of cynical indifference. Therefore, it is our duty to act for this noble cause, and we now want to encourage all responsible, courageous actors of public opinion of the European and Western world to do the same.