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To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.

Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.

25.02.2021

Groundbreaking decision for victims of Italian weapon airstrikes in Yemen

Investigation into responsibility of RWM Italia SpA and Italy’s National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA) in deadly airstrike continues

Rome/Berlin/Sana'a - The preliminary investigations judge in Rome ruled yesterday that the public prosecutor in Rome must continue the criminal investigation into managers of RWM Italia SpA, a German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG’s Italian subsidiary, and senior officials of Italy’s National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA) for their role in a deadly Saudi/United Arab Emirates-led military coalition airstrike in Deir Al-Ḩajārī in northwest Yemen.

In October 2019, the Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the dismissal of the April 2018 criminal complaint filed against RWM Italia and UAMA by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, its Yemen-based partner Mwatana for Human Rights, and the Italian organization Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo. The three organizations opposed the dismissal.

The judge upheld the grounds of their opposition, and paved the way for a thorough investigation into the responsibility of arms manufacturer and UAMA officials in the deadly airstrike that killed a family of six in October 2016.

“We welcome the  decision to continue the criminal investigation into RWM Italia and UAMA’s role in the deadly attack on Deir Al-Ḩajārī. This decision gives hope to all survivors of deadly airstrikes that had no identifiable military target and killed and injured civilians,” the civil society organizations said in a joint statement. They argue:

  • The prosecutor confirmed that the RWM Italia suspension lug found at the scene of the 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.
  • There is ample evidence of the use of European arms  – including the MK 80 series bombs produced by RWM Italia, and the Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado jets partially manufactured by Leonardo SpA – in alleged war crimes committed by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition in Yemen. 

Furthermore, in a historic decision, the Italian government permanently revoked existing bomb export licenses for missiles and aerial bombs to Saudi Arabia and the UAE on 29 January 2021, thereby cancelling the shipment of more than 12,700 bombs.

Since 2015, thousands of civilians have been killed in the armed conflict in Yemen; many more have died from famine and disease. While human rights violations are committed by all conflict parties, one of the main causes of civilian casualties are airstrikes by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition whose air fleet is largely composed of European-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles.

“We therefore urge the International Criminal Court to cooperate with national prosecutors to investigate the legal responsibility of corporate and political actors from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK,” the organizations added.

To ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their role in war crimes, in December 2019, ECCHR submitted a joint communication to the ICC together with Mwatana for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Campaign Against Arms TradeCentre Delàs  and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo

cases

Yemen

Made in Europe, bombed in Yemen

Arms exports

Despite countless attacks on civilian homes, markets, hospitals and schools – conducted by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition – transnational companies based in Europe continued and continue to supply Saudi Arabia and the UAE with weapons, ammunition and logistical support. European government officials authorized the exports by granting licenses.

Yemen

European responsibility for war crimes in Yemen

Arms exports

In October 2016, an airstrike – alleged to have been carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition – struck a civilian home in the village of Deir Al-Hajari in northwest Yemen. The intentional directing of attacks against the civilian population amounts to war crimes. ECCHR is taking legal action against this.

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