Rome’s Judge rejects dismissal: investigation into RWM Italia and UAMA must continue

Rome’s Judge rejects dismissal: investigation into RWM Italia and UAMA must continue

Groundbreaking decision for victims of Italian weapon airstrikes in Yemen 

Today, our organizations announce that the preliminary investigations Judge in Rome ruled 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-Hajari 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. 

Today, 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 today’s decision to continue the criminal investigation into RWM Italia and UAMA’s role in the deadly attack on Deir al-Hajari. 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 Deir al-Hajari 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 RightsAmnesty International, the Campaign Against Arms TradeCentre Delàs  and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo