The Loveparade trial was terminated without judgment – there was no clear guilt for the catastrophe. Relatives and victims are horrified.
In the end, judge Mario Plein personally addresses one of the relatives. There is no villain in this process, he says to Gabi Müller, who lost her son Christian in the Loveparade disaster on July 24, 2010. Previously, Plein had given reasons for about two and a half hours, why the board is now closing the case without judgment.
The End of one of the most complex processes in German post-war history the Duisburg regional court sealed on Monday after 184 days of trial. And that shook the foundations of justice, especially among the survivors and relatives.
The regional court called a “multi-causal event” Duisburg the chain of events that led to a mass panic at a former freight station in Duisburg with 21 deaths and more than 650 injuries. In the end, multicausal also means that a clear, individual guilt could not be proven. Plein says that he couldn’t make out any villains. In his view, the accused would have done their best at the time. For Julius Reiter, who also represents Gabi Müller as a co-plaintiff with his Düsseldorf law firm, the process has come to an “unworthy end”. A disgraceful chapter in German legal history.
Six former employees of the city of Duisburg and four employees of the organizer Lovapent had to answer at the beginning of the trial in December 2017, among other things, for negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm. In addition, they were accused of serious planning errors when preparing the largest German techno event. But in the past two years, the dock has gradually emptied. The lawsuit against the city’s six employees and a Lovapent employee ended over a year ago. The three other Lovapent employees remained. They were also given the prospect of an early termination of the money order procedure. But they refused. A defendant had given the reason at the time as not wanting to waive his right to be acquitted.
Grueling negotiation days, hours of filing notes
For relatives and victims, it was “another black day,” says lawyer Reiter on Monday. To at last they had resisted an attitude. However, legal plaintiffs only play a minor role anyway. Although your voices are heard, they are not relevant for procedural decisions such as a termination of proceedings. Defense and the public prosecutor had already agreed on the termination of the proceedings at the beginning of April. The sack was then closed on Monday.
What took place in the Düsseldorf Congress Center Ost for two years was sometimes a Kafkaesque judicial chamber game about the search for justice, for the guilty, for responsibility, for morality. There were grueling negotiation days in which files were read for hours, administrative details were discussed, motions and countermotions were made. Scientific reports on the flow rate of visitor flows were discussed and questions about who signed which sign and when.
In the end it was clear: The event should never have been approved because the security concept was simply sloppy. The venue was unsuitable for the number of visitors, the control system was uncoordinated, the communication was massively disrupted, accesses were opened even though they should have been closed – the court stated all of this in a final statement. Only blame for that, the court also says that nobody bears it.
It remains astonishing that the decisive expert opinion, on which the board essentially bases its assessment, was never officially introduced into the procedure. On more than 3,800 pages, Jürgen Gerlach from the University of Wuppertal describes in detail what went wrong at the time. Gerlach should have appeared in court in May to answer questions. But the dates were canceled without further ado. Because of the delay caused by the Corona crisis, but also because the court saw only a small amount of guilt with the accused and preferred the recruitment. “The court simply cut off the relatives and victims’ right to ask questions,” says lawyer Reiter. “It would have been so important for her to get closer to the truth about what exactly happened that day. That was not okay.”
The Duisburg regional court specifically moved to the Düsseldorf exhibition halls for the mammoth trial, also because they wanted to take the great public interest into account. The court’s statement on Monday said the trial had also been closed because “there is no longer a public interest in further persecution.” In fact, the audience seats in the huge hall, crammed with modern transmission technology, were barely occupied after the first few weeks. The process cost around 29,000 euros a day. The expected number of visitors failed to materialize in the long term, and interest waned. That, too, is inseparable from the tragic history of this catastrophe and its reappraisal.
What was expected? It took the public prosecutor eight years to find the results of the investigation and to bring charges with a lot of effort. The main file alone comprises more than 60,000 pages. There are also 1,000 file folders with supplementary and 1,000 hours of video material. The prosecutors apparently found it difficult to find any more people to blame for the accident. From the point of view of the co-plaintiffs, they were the wrong people anyway. “You let the big ones go, the little ones have to pay,” Gabi Müller kept saying.
What about the policemen who had ordered the officers to chain up that afternoon, blocking the possible escape route, when the situation had deteriorated? What about Rainer Schaller, then Lovapent managing director? What about Adolf Sauerland, the mayor of Duisburg at the time, who advertised the event with high pressure? The indictment could not prove that the two of them were individually guilty. They were only invited as witnesses.
The ex-mayor has memory gaps
Sauerland’s appearance is undoubtedly one of the most memorable of this process because it stood for so many things. In one of his few interviews since the disaster, about a year and a half before the trial began, Sauerland regretted that, right after the accident, he was careful not to make any legal mistakes and had forgotten something: “Compassion for the relatives. ” He missed the chance to make up for it in court. The co-plaintiffs had longed for an apology or at least an expression of remorse. But Sauerland simply did not want to show them the favor.
In the two-day interrogation he presented himself with the same characteristics that made him a figure of hate after the catastrophe, which had even persuaded his opponents at a demonstration to hold up a gallows with his picture: cool and bureaucratic. He responded to questions with shrugs or sentences such as: “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember that”, “I had no knowledge of this”. The gaps in memory even upset the otherwise level-headed judge Mario Plein. “Even Klein Erna on the street would find it strange that the mayor doesn’t know about all of this,” the chairman said. “We’re not talking about a flea market in Duisburg-Marxloh, but about the Love Parade.”
The co-plaintiffs are now hoping for at least a political reappraisal. “We are now awaiting a final debate by the state parliament on the consequences of the failed Loveparade process,” says co-plaintiff attorney Reiter. Above all, he wants to see the role of the police illuminated again. A bold wish, because politics also occupies a rather inglorious place in the Loveparade complex. The techno event was at the top of the political wish list at the time and was supposed to bring youthful splendor as a prestige project as part of the Ruhr.2010. The pot was then European Capital of Culture.
Calls for a parliamentary committee of inquiry remained unanswered. It was politics that embraced victims and relatives in big words. At the funeral service in Duisburg in July 2010, the then NRW Prime Minister Hannelore Kraft (SPD) promised them: “We owe it to all of you, and not least to ourselves, to fully explain what happened and what is inconceivable. How could this happen? Who is to blame? Who is responsible? These questions must and will find an answer. ”
There will probably never be these answers. That is also a disaster.