Università degli Studi di Milano
In person event in Italian
Exploring the role of mandatory human rights due diligence in helping to prevent, mitigate, and remedy the human rights abuses in the arms industry: a specific focus on Italy
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Due to the nature of its products and services, the defence industry is exposed to intrinsic high risk of causing and contributing to grave human rights abuses. This risk is addressed by extensive regulation meant to avoid the international supply of arms that might be used in violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL). This normative framework includes the ATT (Arms Trade Treaty), the EU Common Position on Arms Exports and, at the Italian national level, Law 185 of 1990.
Despite the extensive arms export control regulation in place, governments and arms companies continue to authorise and export weapons and services to States where they are at clear risk of being used in serious violations of human rights and IHL, including the potential commission of war crimes. This is, for instance, the case of the ongoing conflict in Yemen. In spite of numerous reports on the potential crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition since the beginning of the conflict, European governments and companies, including Italy, have continued to export of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fuelling the conflict. While there is a lack of States’ political will to ensure respect for human rights in this context, defence companies are not living up to their human rights obligations either. Instead, they claim to have externalised their risk assessment through the export licences issued by their home state, even in cases where corporate officers had access to information that their arms might potentially contribute to human rights violations. This is missing an essential point: the business responsibility to respect human rights “exists independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their own human rights obligations.”
Against this background we want to discuss whether and how mandatory human rights due diligence might contribute to filling in this gap, by helping to prevent, mitigate, and remedy the human rights abuses that this sector currently enables, with a specific focus on Italy. As a case study, we will discuss the criminal proceedings against the company RWM S.p.A. and Italian licensing authorities (UAMA) for the export of weapons used in an airstrike potentially by the Saudi-led collation in Yemen, in which a family of six was killed.
Simultaneous translation Italian-English is limited. If desired, please submit a request with your registration.
Event organised by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), The University of Milan and the Human Rights International Corner (HRIC)