On 8 October 2016, an airstrike allegedly by the Saudi-led military coalition struck the village of Deir Al-Ḩajārī in northwest Yemen. The airstrike killed a family of six, including the pregnant mother and four children.
At the site of the airstrike bomb remnants were found, and a suspension lug manufactured by RWM Italia S.p.A., a subsidiary of the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG. In April 2018, ECCHR and its partners from Italy and Yemen called for an investigation into the criminal liability of the Italian authorities and RWM’s directors for arms exports. The preliminary investigations judge confirmed in February 2021 that the Rome Public Prosecutor’s Office must continue the case.
The incident of Deir Al-Ḩajārī is well documented, as a field monitor of Mwatana for Human Rights, a Yemeni partner organization of ECCHR attended the scene the day after.
At the site of the airstrike, bomb remnants were found, which indicate that the type of bomb used was a guided bomb of the MK80-family. Also in the rubble a suspension lug, which is needed to attach the bomb to the plane, was found. Its serial marks clearly indicate that it was manufactured by RWM Italia SpA, an Italian subsidiary of German Rheinmetall AG.
The direct perpetrators of this crime committed in Yemen – coalition politicians and their military personnel – might not be prosecuted at this point in time. However, their suppliers – like enterprises and state officials in Italy – could be brought to justice.
ECCHR, Mwatana, and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo in cooperation with Osservatorio Permanente sulle Armi Leggere e le Politiche di Sicurezza e Difesa (OPAL), filed the criminal complaint against managers of RWM Italia and senior officials of Italy’s National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA). The complaint alleges the criminal liability of the RWM Italia managers and UAMA officials for the export of at least a part of the deadly weapon used in the strike, to Saudi Arabia or another member state of the Saudi-led military coalition.
Despite major warnings that the coalition warfare in Yemen causes significant loss of civilian life and breaches of international humanitarian law, exports of bombs and other weapons to coalition member states had not stopped and are still taking place. In Italy, the competent Italian Authority for the Export of Armament authorizes these exports of armaments manufactured in Italy.