On the last day of the trial, only one had the floor in the courtroom: Presiding Judge Mario Plein. Nobody was allowed to ask questions or comment. The proceedings were stopped and Mr. Plein now wanted to make a three-hour statement, it said. After these three hours, everyone in the hall should have understood why the Loveparade disaster had resulted in 21 deaths and at least 650 injuries. In making this declaration, the judge uses information and pictures from the 3800-page expert opinion of the expert Prof. Gerlach. Those involved in the process must not question these theses today. The judge summarizes the most important points of the report. And I summarize the main points of the judge here in the blog. Originally, ten process days were scheduled for the expert.
Misguided flows of people
In my opinion, the most important thing from what the judge said is that incorrect planning at two critical points should have led to the deadly crush:
1. The separation systems, the controlled inlets on both sides of the tunnel are said to have caused congestion due to their design and construction. The mass of people who built up in front of the barriers is said to have been led into the tunnel by a communication breakdown in the period in which other measures by police chains were in progress. These police chains are said to have been built in the belief that the entrances were closed.
2. The second critical point, which Judge Plein names, explains why there was a traffic jam above the ramp on the event site. Three crowds of people are said to have met on this surface: a) the people who wanted to finally see the parade after walking through the city. b) the people who wanted to leave the party again c) the people who were celebrating and dancing alongside the floats (music trucks). There simply wasn’t enough space for these three flows of people at this point. That is why the people stopped at the top while the coming visitors dammed up on the ramp.
Many are to blame, none are punished
In addition to the planning errors on these two points, the court also points out errors by other actors. After all, the regulatory office, building authority, state police, federal police and the fire department were also involved in the planning of the whole and made mistakes.
I think one could now ask why charges were not brought against those responsible in these areas. Is it because the investigative authorities and the public prosecutor’s office were unable to collect enough evidence for an indictment? Or you can put up with the fact that there were many who are partly responsible for the misfortune and that is precisely why nobody can be punished individually.
The sermon to the mother
In the end, judge Mario Plein addressed the only co-plaintiff who is sitting in the room today despite the corona pandemic. It is the mother of a deceased. Judge Plein expresses understanding. For him it was the hardest three years of his life. The court had clarified how it happened. He also tried to put himself in the mother’s seat. He understood that she would rather have him present a villain to her. But there is simply not one here. He hoped that after some time she would be satisfied with his explanation. From today’s well-stocked press series I only hear like a colleague mumbling: “What is this sermon about now?” For me, too, the speech gives the feeling that the victim is being taught here. Aren’t judges more likely to speak to the accused after their verdict? But they somehow play a supporting role.
The judge’s undoubtedly well-meaning last words spoil my impression of the procedure. From the point of view of many process participants and observers, the criminal chamber has done an extraordinary job in the past three years. The job of a committee of inquiry, which is primarily not their job. Nevertheless, I would have wished that the victim families had had the opportunity to be present and to speak up that day. Even if it is legally irrelevant, in my opinion it would have been a more worthy conclusion for everyone.