Coalition of human rights groups begins legal proceedings against Italian arms company and export officials

Around a dozen people climb over the rubble of demolished buildings in Yemen.
Villagers scour rubble following the bombing of Hajar Aukaish, Yemen, in April 2015.

A coalition of human rights organisations from Germany, Italy and Yemen have begun a legal action against a European arms manufacturer and officials in Italy. The legal action brought by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Yemen-based Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights and the Italian organisation Rete Italiana per il Disarmo.

On Tuesday 17th April, the groups filed a complaint with prosecutors in Rome against the Italian company RWM Italia, a subsidiary of German arms company Rheinmetall and officials in the Italian arms export licensing agency. The complaint asks prosecutors to investigate whether there is liability on the part of the officials and RWM Italia directors over alleged arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

The legal challenge focuses on a particular bombing of the village of Deir al-Jari in Hudaydah, which took place on 8th October 2016. The Saudi attack killed a family of six, including four children – the groups hope focusing on a specific, well-documented incident will increase the chances of the case being successful.

Among the debris left by the bombing were parts identifying the missile as from the MK80 series of “general purpose” missiles, and a suspension lug for holding the bomb in place on the plane – the serial number on the lug identifies it as a batch manufactured in June 2014 by RWM Italia.

Francesco Vignarca of Rete Italiana per il Disarmo : "Despite the violations reported in Yemen, Italy continues to export arms to members of the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which is contrary to the Italian Law n.185 / 1990, which prohibits the export of arms to countries in conflict. In addition, it is in conflict with the binding provisions of the Common Position of the European Union which defines common standards for the control of exports of military equipment, and against the provisions contained in the International Arms Trade Treaty".

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