Belgium – The fate of the policeman who killed a 2-year-old migrant known this Thursday

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An agent who fired in the pursuit of a migrant van in 2019, will be fixed on his fate after filing an appeal, following his one-year suspended sentence.

Belgian justice rules Thursday on the fate of a police officer accused of a fatal shooting at a two-year-old Kurdish girl, during a chase with a migrant van in 2018, a drama that has sparked criticism against the Belgian migration policy.

This is the epilogue of the trial of Victor-Manuel Jacinto Gonçalves, 49, sentenced last February to a one-year suspended sentence for the death of little Mawda, but who appealed and was retried there. has one month in Mons (south).

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The judgment of the court of appeal must be delivered in the early afternoon.

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The tragedy occurred on the night of May 16 to 17, 2018. On a Walloon motorway, south of Brussels, a van carrying around thirty migrants taken care of in Grande-Synthe (northern France) had tried to escape at high speed a police car that wanted to intercept it.

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Faced with the refusal to comply, one of the police officers had taken out his weapon through the window and aimed, according to his explanations, “the left front tire” while doubling.

A ball in the head

But a sudden blow from the steering wheel from his colleague had deflected his shot towards the cabin of the chased vehicle, where Mawda, installed behind the driver with her parents, had been shot in the head. She had died in the ambulance.

In this case, the policeman responsible for the shooting, indicted after a year and a half of investigation and left free, quickly admitted having drawn his weapon to stop the mad race of the vehicle.

But he says he never knew that migrants were on board and said he was “devastated” by the death of the girl.

“I haven’t been living for three years,” Jacinto Gonçalves said on September 30 during the appeal trial.

The prosecution requested confirmation of the sentence handed down at first instance in February, namely a one-year suspended sentence.

“Serious dysfunctions”

Accused of manslaughter, the police officer faces in theory up to five years in prison.

Laurent Kennes, his lawyer, pleaded the acquittal or failing that a suspension of the pronouncement of the sentence which would avoid its mention on a criminal record. The official had never come into contact with the law before.

But “an acquittal in this case would send a disastrous message of total impunity to the violent police officers”, warned the collective “Justice4Mawda”.

These human rights activists have so far unsuccessfully demanded the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry to shed light on “the serious dysfunctions” of the investigation.

Selma Benkhelifa, who defends Mawda’s parents, has protested against the “lies” of certain police officers and the treatment reserved for her clients on the night of the events. They were prevented from accompanying their young daughter in the ambulance after the fatal shooting.

“There was a completely deleterious, racist and dehumanizing climate of which my clients were victims”, accused Me Benkhelifa during the first trial in Mons, at the end of 2020, deploring a “hunt for migrants” under the guise of the fight against trafficking. ‘human beings.

Having fled Iraq in 2015, Mawda’s parents arrived in Europe crossing the Mediterranean. At the time of the tragedy, they were looking for a passage to England. The investigation revealed that their smugglers were acting in part from Belgian soil, with a vehicle recovered in the Liège region (east).

The fault is established

As for the judged facts, the criminal court of Mons had considered in first instance that the fault of the police officer was “established without doubt”.

The goal of stopping the van could be achieved “by other means such as building a roadblock”. Choosing to shoot, even aiming at a tire, amounted to “seriously endangering the occupants of the van or even other road users”, the judgment had underlined.

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