The policeman who fired the shot that took the life of the 2-year old Kurdish-Iraqi girl Mawda has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and has been sentenced to one year in prison with a suspended sentence.
This was decided by the correctional court in Mons on Friday.
In 2018, the officer fired the bullet that killed Mawda during a chase of a van carrying over 20 people, including Mawda and her family.
According to the forensic doctor and the ballistics expert, Mawda was in the front of the vehicle at the time of the shooting. The police officer had stated at the hearing that he had not seen the child and that he had not received any information indicating she was in the vehicle.
Accused of manslaughter, the officer had added that he intended to aim at the front left tyre of the van in order to cause a slow puncture, which would have forced the vehicle to come to a halt. When the van collided with the police vehicle, the bullet was deflected.
“There was adrenaline, the fear of having an accident. My client opened the window, pulled out his gun and leaned out of the car. It was dangerous, he was in danger of being hit,” said the officer’s lawyer.
The van swerved and avoided a collision with another police van, according to the lawyer. The officer’s right hand allegedly tensed up, causing the shot to be fired.
“The Advocate General, Ingrid Godart, had agreed that a shot fired by tension or reflex seemed to be compatible with the elements that had been analysed.” In her view, this was involuntary manslaughter in the absence of foresight or precaution.
“There is nothing in this file to prove that the police officer would have wanted to attempt to kill someone else. I cannot show that he had the intention to kill or that he had consciously accepted the risk.”
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The officer in question was ultimately found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
"Officers may use force provided there is proportionality," the judge said. "It seems that there is no proportionality in this case. A policeman must always be master of his weapon. Nor does the lack of training relieve him of his responsibility. The officer's fault has therefore been demonstrated."
The judge, however, also acknowledged that the officer did not mean to cause the girl's death, adding that the presumption of innocence is applied, "whatever the context and circumstances of the facts, or whatever the attitude of the civil parties, the hostility of the press or the social media."
The officer who fired the shot was given a suspended sentence of one year in prison - meaning that the sentence will not be enforced unless he commits another crime during that period - and a €400 fine.
Mawda's parents will receive provisional compensation of €30,000 each from the Belgian state, their other child will receive €3,000.
Driver Found Guilty, Accused Smuggler Goes Free
The court also sentenced the driver, Jargew D., of the van to four years of effective prison time, of which he already served 30 months in pre-trial detention.
The judge ruled that he is the one responsible for Mawda's death, because he did not stop the van "despite several reminders from the police." The prosecution had demanded ten years in prison because he had already been convicted of similar offences.
A third defendant, Rasol D. (28), a suspected human smuggler whose involvement was based on the statement of one anonymous witness, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence, despite having been charged with seven years' imprisonment.
There was no proof that was, in fact, the smuggler, or that he ordered the driver to keep driving, even after the police had ordered the van to stop.
The Brussels Times