Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Italian officials & German firm face lawsuit over arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Italian officials & German firm face lawsuit over arms sales to Saudi Arabia
A complaint has been filed by a coalition of human rights groups against Italian government officials and a major European arms manufacturer over their alleged involvement in the aerial bombing of Yemen.

The legal action was launched by the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Yemen-based Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, and the Italian Rete Italiana per il Disarmo. They filed the lawsuit with the prosecutors’ office in Rome.

The lawsuit aims to challenge arms exports by officials from the Italian Foreign Ministry and the local subsidiary of the German conglomerate Rheinmetall, RWM Italia, to Saudi Arabia.

The human rights groups focused on the October 8, 2016 bombing in Yemen, which left a family of six dead, including four children. They expressed hopes that concentrating on a specific well-documented incident could increase their chances of success.

“What makes this case special are the remnants found at the site of the airstrike,” Linde Bryk, a Dutch lawyer who worked in Kosovo and is now with the ECCHR, told The Guardian.

According to Mwatana, among the fragments that it found at the site of the 2016 attack on the village of Deir al-Jari in Hudaydah (north-west Yemen) was a suspension lug for holding bombs in place. Mwatana arrived at the site of the bombing the day after the incident to interview witnesses and gather evidence. The human rights organization sent pictures to the Italian news agency Ansa last year.

According to the complaint, the serial number on the lug identified it as part of a batch manufactured in June 2014 by RWM Italia. “This case is emblematic as it not only concerns Italy’s role but the general question on the responsibility of European governments and European arms manufacturers for the consequences of arms exports used by the Saudi-led coalition,” Bryk said.

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