Belgium cuts cop sentence for shooting migrant toddler
A Belgian court on Thursday reduced from 12 to 10 months a police officer’s suspended sentence for fatally shooting a Kurdish toddler during a chase of a van carrying migrants.
Belgian court on Thursday reduced from 12 to 10 months a police officer’s suspended sentence for fatally shooting a Kurdish toddler during a chase of a van carrying migrants.
Two-year-old Mawda was fatally wounded by a shot to the head in May 2018 as police chased a van being driven across Belgium by traffickers taking migrants from the continent to Britain.
The high-profile tragedy caused a scandal in Belgium and, for rights activists, became a symbol of the dangers posed by the “criminalisation” of irregular migration.
Victor-Manuel Jacinto Goncalves, 49, was in February found guilty of involuntary homicide for opening fire on the vehicle and handed a one-year suspended sentence and a 400-euro fine. On Thursday, an appeals court reduced his suspended sentence to 10 months but upheld the fine.
The officer insisted he intended to shoot out a tyre to halt the van, but his car swerved violently and the bullet went astray.
His lawyer demanded a full acquittal on appeal.
But campaign group Justice4Mawda said an acquittal would send a “disastrous message on the total impunity” for police using unwarranted violence.
Mawda’s parents, who left Iraq in 2015 and had intended to head to Britain, settled in Belgium after her death, granted leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.
The case drew attention from celebrities — including Pink Floyd singer-songwriter Roger Waters and film director Ken Loach — who demanded justice for the toddler.
Cooperation between French and Belgian services was also placed in the spotlight during the original trial.
When the migrants’ van set off from northern France in May 2018, French investigators had placed a GPS tracker on board.
But Belgian police did not know it was already under surveillance when they tried to intercept the traffickers on a motorway south of Brussels.