Belgium: a police officer tried for the shooting death of a Kurdish girl

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A Belgian police officer appears before the Mons (south) court on Monday to answer for the death of a two-year-old Kurdish girl, fatally injured during a chase, a case that has become a symbol of the “criminalization” of migrants denounced by the NGO.

Accused of manslaughter, the police officer is tried with two Iraqi Kurds, the driver of the van where Mawda and her parents were, and the smuggler suspected of having them boarded to reach England.

The hearing is scheduled to last two days, Monday and Tuesday. The correctional court should then put its judgment under advisement.

The facts date back to the night of May 16 to 17, 2018, on a motorway in Wallonia, 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.

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.

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, had been hit by a bullet in the head. She had died in the ambulance.


In this file, the policeman responsible for the shooting, who appears free, quickly admitted to 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 a girl.

“To have the image of the one who is responsible for the death of a child is absolutely appalling”, told AFP his lawyer, Me Laurent Kennes.

“He has the impression of taking everything in the face, of carrying the weight of the errors of the prosecution, of the migration policy,” adds the criminal.

The start of the investigation was chaotic. The prosecutor in charge was initially evasive on the issue of shooting by a police officer. He mentioned the hypothesis of an armed person on board the van, which was then denied.

For their part, Mawda’s parents, who left Iraq in 2015 (aged less than 25) with the initial plan to settle in the United Kingdom, settled in Belgium after the tragedy.

Mawda's parents

AFP Photo

Mawda’s parents

Civil parties in the proceedings, they are defended by a trio of lawyers and helped by a citizen collective which has mobilized celebrities on social networks for a campaign called # Justice4Mawda.

“Hidden under the carpet”

“What circumstances can justify shooting at a van full of passengers?” “, Indignant in a video the British filmmaker Ken Loach.

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters called for “making some noise” so that Mawda’s death is not “hidden under the rug”.

Migrants often flee a war and are victims of traffickers, but this homicide “is the result of their dehumanization and criminalization”, proclaims one of the campaign messages.

The issue of information sharing between French and Belgian authorities on migrant smuggling should be raised at the trial.

The van was monitored via a GPS beacon posed as part of an investigation in France, which the Belgians were unaware of, according to the investigation.

The police officer faces up to five years in prison for manslaughter. But according to his lawyer, the prosecution could only request a suspended prison sentence.

The two Kurdish co-defendants were indicted in particular for “malicious obstruction (dangerous, editor’s note) to traffic with the aggravating circumstance of death”.

Little Mawda was buried in Brussels in July 2018. Since February 2019, her parents have been granted a right of residence in Belgium for humanitarian reasons.

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