Exactly three years ago a family of six was killed in an airstrike by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition in Deir Al-Hajari in Northwest Yemen. Those killed in the strike included a pregnant woman and her four young children. Bomb remnants were found at the site of the attack, including a suspension lug manufactured by RWM Italia S.p.A., a subsidiary of the German Arms Manufacturer Rheinmetall AG. In April 2018, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), together with its Yemen-based partner Mwatana for Human Rights, and Italian-based Rete Italiana per il Disarmo, submitted a criminal complaint on the case.
After more than a year and a half of investigations, the Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome, instead of carrying out a complete assessment of the role of Italy and an Italian weapons manufacturer’s potential role in crimes in Yemen, has decided to request a dismissal of the case. The three organizations will appeal the Prosecutor’s decision, as the case – and Yemeni victims – deserve a proper investigation of Italy’s role in the devastating Saudi/UAE-led coalition attacks, which continue to kill, wound and gravely harm civilians.
“The decision by the prosecutor is incomprehensible. This case is not about mere business or improper commercial advantages, it’s about Italy’s potential responsibility for crimes committed in Yemen. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition has killed and injured thousands of civilians since 2015 in indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in Yemen, fueled by arms exports from Europe. If RWM Italia managers and officials of the Italian National Authority for the Authorization of Arms (UAMA) are complicit in crimes committed the Saudi-led coalition and their partners, they must be held accountable”, the civil society organizations said in a joint statement. They argue that:
When looking at the offence of abuse of office (under Article 323 of the Italian Criminal Code) documents from the investigation show that still in November 2017 arms exports to Saudi/UAE-led coalition members were granted, despite the documentation of serious violations of international humanitarian law and grave human rights abuses committed by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition. The documents show that the decision-making process carried out by the UAMA was not in conformity with Italian Law, the EU Common Position on arms exports and the Arms Trade Treaty.
The prosecutor confirmed that the RWM Italia suspension lug found at the scene of the Deir Al-Hajari attack may have been exported in November 2015, at which point UN bodies, international NGOs and Yemeni organizations had documented repeated Saudi/UAE-led coalition violations.
The prosecutor insufficiently examined whether the exports by RWM Italia and their licensing amount to criminal conduct on the side of RWM Italia or the UAMA.