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13:04

Italy/Germany: Airstrike that killed Yemeni family haunts Sardinian town

Italy, Domusnovas, Iglesias and Berlin
May 22, 2018 at 02:19 GMT +00:00 · Published

The war machine prevailing in Yemen since March 2015 has so far claimed more than 6,400 civilian lives, according to UN statistics.

On 8 October 2016, a family of six was rendered yet another casualty figure, when an airstrike, believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, struck their house in the village of Deir Al-Hajari in northwest Yemen.

The remnants of the bomb that killed Husni ali Ahmed Jaber al-Ahdal, his pregnant wife and their four children was later traced back to RWM Italia S.p.A., a subsidiary of the German Arms Manufacturer Rheinmetall AG. The shockwaves of that bomb-blast thus reached all the way to the Italian island of Sardinia.

Domusnovas, a small Sardinian town of some 6,000 residents, is home to a RWM plant that manufactures bombs of the MK8 series, identifiable by the serial numbers A4447, and sold to Saudi Arabia.

Arnaldo Scarpa, spokesperson for the RWM Conversion Committee for Peace and Sustainable Work, a local citizens committee which seeks to alter the course of the RWM plant activities away from the arms industry, says it is time changes were made: "Italy cannot allow the sale, the export or even the transit of weapons destined to a country at war or a country responsible for human rights violations. In the case of Saudi Arabia, all these conditions are present."

Plagued by unemployment, Domusnovas' residents don't necessarily see forcing change on local employers as a priority. As deputy mayor Angelo Deidda says: "I can only be grateful to RWM that it is giving me the possibility to offer work places to the citizens and this is what is most important, the rest is irrelevant."

Deidda scoffs at the idea of converting production at the RWM plant into other industries. "You cannot impose on them what to produce: what should we make there, chocolates?" he argues.

The mayor of Iglesias, a town whose border the RWM plant straddles, is more sceptical than grateful. "There is the risk that these kind of explosives are also being used in contexts of war that are particularly dramatic like the one in Yemen, that is also causing many innocent victims."

That "dramatic" war, however, is of peripheral concern to Paolo Vaboni, a Domusnovas local who argues that working at the RWM plant "is not the best you can think of, but it is an extreme solution to an extreme situation." Another local, Samuele Dode, believes that the RWM plant has to be "eliminated" altogether as "it produces death."

On 17 April 2018, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) joined efforts with the Yemeni Mwatana human rights organisation and Italy-based Rete Italiana per Il Disarmo to file a criminal complaint in Rome against managers of RWM Italia and senior officials of Italy's National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA), for their "complicity" in the death of the Ahdals in 2016.

In Berlin, Bonyan Jamal, a legal officer at Mwatna shows images of the airstrike site. "Our field researcher found remnants of the bombs that were used that linked them to Rheinmetall through RWM."

Linde Bryk of ECCHR elaborates: "The charges we ask the prosecutor to investigate in the criminal complaint are the complicity of RWM's Italian directors and UAMA officials in the murder of this family and also, we ask the prosecutor to investigate an abuse of power by UAMA in licensing these continuous exports to Yemen, or to Saudi Arabia being used in Yemen."

As she points to a picture of the suspension lug found at the site of the strike, Byrk explains: "Some of the other parts of the shrapnel that was found was of a guidance kit, and that means that the guidance kit was used under the bomb, and that you cannot have an error range of more than ten metres."

Her conclusion? "Since it was a house of farmers that was hit, and there was no military object close by, this indicates that they were really targeted by the Saudis whereas they are civilians, so it clearly indicates that this amounts to a war crime."

UAMA meanwhile denies any wrongdoing. "The authorisation for the exportation of weapons are released according to the law [...] and always respecting the […] external and defence policies of Italy," director Francesco Azzarello said in a statement released in response to the criminal complaint.

Until a criminal investigation is launched or Scarpa's efforts are convincing enough to the Domusnovas workers, RWM exports to Saudi Arabia will continue to make their way from the Italian Sardinian airport of Cagliari.

In 2016 alone, the Italian government authorised €411 million ($484 million) of RWM Italia arms exports - "specifically for the exportations of 19.675 bombs series Mk82, Mk83 and Mk84" - to Saudi Arabia, according to data provided to Ruptly by Rete Disarmo.

Quite possibly the same exports will land in Yemen, with deadly impact.

Ruptly contacted, RWM Italia S.p.A., Rheinmetall Defence and the Saudi Arabia Centre for International Communication for comment, but has received no response.

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Description

The war machine prevailing in Yemen since March 2015 has so far claimed more than 6,400 civilian lives, according to UN statistics.

On 8 October 2016, a family of six was rendered yet another casualty figure, when an airstrike, believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, struck their house in the village of Deir Al-Hajari in northwest Yemen.

The remnants of the bomb that killed Husni ali Ahmed Jaber al-Ahdal, his pregnant wife and their four children was later traced back to RWM Italia S.p.A., a subsidiary of the German Arms Manufacturer Rheinmetall AG. The shockwaves of that bomb-blast thus reached all the way to the Italian island of Sardinia.

Domusnovas, a small Sardinian town of some 6,000 residents, is home to a RWM plant that manufactures bombs of the MK8 series, identifiable by the serial numbers A4447, and sold to Saudi Arabia.

Arnaldo Scarpa, spokesperson for the RWM Conversion Committee for Peace and Sustainable Work, a local citizens committee which seeks to alter the course of the RWM plant activities away from the arms industry, says it is time changes were made: "Italy cannot allow the sale, the export or even the transit of weapons destined to a country at war or a country responsible for human rights violations. In the case of Saudi Arabia, all these conditions are present."

Plagued by unemployment, Domusnovas' residents don't necessarily see forcing change on local employers as a priority. As deputy mayor Angelo Deidda says: "I can only be grateful to RWM that it is giving me the possibility to offer work places to the citizens and this is what is most important, the rest is irrelevant."

Deidda scoffs at the idea of converting production at the RWM plant into other industries. "You cannot impose on them what to produce: what should we make there, chocolates?" he argues.

The mayor of Iglesias, a town whose border the RWM plant straddles, is more sceptical than grateful. "There is the risk that these kind of explosives are also being used in contexts of war that are particularly dramatic like the one in Yemen, that is also causing many innocent victims."

That "dramatic" war, however, is of peripheral concern to Paolo Vaboni, a Domusnovas local who argues that working at the RWM plant "is not the best you can think of, but it is an extreme solution to an extreme situation." Another local, Samuele Dode, believes that the RWM plant has to be "eliminated" altogether as "it produces death."

On 17 April 2018, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) joined efforts with the Yemeni Mwatana human rights organisation and Italy-based Rete Italiana per Il Disarmo to file a criminal complaint in Rome against managers of RWM Italia and senior officials of Italy's National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA), for their "complicity" in the death of the Ahdals in 2016.

In Berlin, Bonyan Jamal, a legal officer at Mwatna shows images of the airstrike site. "Our field researcher found remnants of the bombs that were used that linked them to Rheinmetall through RWM."

Linde Bryk of ECCHR elaborates: "The charges we ask the prosecutor to investigate in the criminal complaint are the complicity of RWM's Italian directors and UAMA officials in the murder of this family and also, we ask the prosecutor to investigate an abuse of power by UAMA in licensing these continuous exports to Yemen, or to Saudi Arabia being used in Yemen."

As she points to a picture of the suspension lug found at the site of the strike, Byrk explains: "Some of the other parts of the shrapnel that was found was of a guidance kit, and that means that the guidance kit was used under the bomb, and that you cannot have an error range of more than ten metres."

Her conclusion? "Since it was a house of farmers that was hit, and there was no military object close by, this indicates that they were really targeted by the Saudis whereas they are civilians, so it clearly indicates that this amounts to a war crime."

UAMA meanwhile denies any wrongdoing. "The authorisation for the exportation of weapons are released according to the law [...] and always respecting the […] external and defence policies of Italy," director Francesco Azzarello said in a statement released in response to the criminal complaint.

Until a criminal investigation is launched or Scarpa's efforts are convincing enough to the Domusnovas workers, RWM exports to Saudi Arabia will continue to make their way from the Italian Sardinian airport of Cagliari.

In 2016 alone, the Italian government authorised €411 million ($484 million) of RWM Italia arms exports - "specifically for the exportations of 19.675 bombs series Mk82, Mk83 and Mk84" - to Saudi Arabia, according to data provided to Ruptly by Rete Disarmo.

Quite possibly the same exports will land in Yemen, with deadly impact.

Ruptly contacted, RWM Italia S.p.A., Rheinmetall Defence and the Saudi Arabia Centre for International Communication for comment, but has received no response.

W/S Security guards denying entrance to RWM facilities, Sardinia

W/S Outside RWM facilities

M/S Outside RWM facilities

W/S Outside RWM facilities

M/S Outside RWM facilities

W/S Outside RWM facilities

W/S Outside RWM facilities

W/S Houses

M/S Stone with inscription reading "Welcome to Domusnovas"

W/S Church

M/S People entering church

SOT, Arnaldo Scarpa, spokesperson of the RWM Conversion Committee for Peace and Sustainable Work, a local citizens committee (Italian): "Article one of this law says that Italy cannot allow the sale, export or even the transit of weapons destined to a country at war or a country responsible for human rights violations. In the case of Saudi Arabia, all these conditions are present. It's been a country at war for a long time and it is also a country where human rights are constantly violated."

W/S Church

SOT, Arnaldo Scarpa, spokesperson RWM Conversion Committee for Peace and Sustainable Work (Italian): "Now the route has become more direct: we know that the last transportation was direct to Saudi Arabia, using aerial transport from the airport of Cagliari and naval transport from both Cagliari or Olbia."

W/S Street

W/S Houses

W/S City Hall

M/S Domusnovas City Hall

C/U Banner

SOT, Angelo Deidda, Deputy Mayor of Domusnovas (Italian): "People from all over Sardinia are arriving here, because specific skills are required. So I can only be grateful to RWM that it is giving me the possibility to offer work places to citizens and this is what is most important, the rest is irrelevant. This factory was born to produce explosives, it was later reconverted to bombs and we have to remember that the company has a private owner, you cannot impose on them what to produce: what should we make there, chocolates?"

C/U Domusnovas flag

SOT, Angelo Deidda, Deputy Mayor of Domusnovas (Italian): "The city is happy to have an industrial reality as RWM that gives work to hundreds of people here. We estimate that around 300 incomes depend directly or indirectly on them, and we are talking about an area with a poor economy."

C/U Map

M/S Map, Iglesias

M/S Statue

M/S Flag

SOT, Emilio Gariazzo, Mayor of Iglesias [village bordering Domusnovas] (Italian): "In the local assembly, we wanted to give a signal to say that there is the risk that these kinds of explosives are also being used in context of war that are particularly dramatic like the one in Yemen, that is also causing many innocent victims."

C/U Map

SOT, Emilio Gariazzo, Mayor of Iglesias [village bordering with Domusnovas] (Italian): "Our local assembly agreed on a deliberation, inviting local institutions to verify that international laws are respected and evaluate the possibility of helping the reconversion in tandem."

W/S Forest

W/S Landscape of Domusnovas

W/S Sheep

C/U Graffiti reading "Domusnovas"

SOT, Paolo Vaboni, resident of Domusnovas (Italian): "This company gives us work. This is the main work source for many families. We live in one of the poorest areas in Italy. There is no work, the mines of Portovesme were closed, that was an important productive area. They closed the mines, there is no other productive reality. This is why the young and the less young apply and they are employed. The fact that they produce bombs is another point. It's not the best you can think of, but it is an extreme solution to an extreme situation. At least this company provides work, it provides work."

SOT, Samuele Dode, resident of Domusnovas (Italian): "This production has to be eliminated because it produces death."

SOT, Nino Maxia, resident of Domusnovas (Italian): "My position is the following: I fear that the people leading the movement against the RWM are paid or supported by some international company that wants to take over the weapons supply to Saudi Arabia in order to provide them with bombs to be used in Yemen. No one can stop this. We are in a depressed area, this is a town, the only source of employment we have are those hundreds of jobs [provided by RWM]."

W/S Church

M/S Inside church

SOT, Christian Lulliu, priest of Beata Vergine Assunta (Italian): "We need work and charity in our lives. But, as a Parish, we cannot provide an answer to this question. Our task is to observe the situation morally and also to be close to the people of the community who work. Those people shouldn't be charged with the weight of judgment."

C/U List showing annual church income

C/U List showing annual church income

W/S Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

W/S Outside ECCHR offices

W/S Sign

M/S ECCHR sign

W/S ECCHR offices

M/S Banner

M/S Legal officer at Mwatana human rights organisation in Yemen Bonyan Jamal

C/U Jamal showing document

C/U Document

SOT, Bonyan Jamal, legal officer at Mwatana human rights organisation in Yemen: "There was an airstrike in al-Hodeida, the next day our field researcher in al Hodeida went down to the place of the strike and she found remnants of the bomb that were used in the strike."

C/U Image

SOT, Bonyan Jamal, legal officer at Mwatana human rights organisation in Yemen: "It is a farming area. So there was four houses here, so, there were four airstrikes that destroyed the four houses. Our field researcher found remnants of the bombs that were used that linked them to Rheinmetall through RWM. Linde from ECCHR contacted Mwatna about this. We provided the information from the ground, and they provided the legal analysis and the procedures. We also had help with Rete Disarmo in Italy. So, these three organisations; Mwatna from Yemen, ECCHR from Germany and Rete Disarmo from Italy started with this complaint."

C/U Jamal's hands

W/S ECCHR offices

SOT, Linde Bryk, lawyer at European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR): "The criminal complaint was filed by ECCHR together with Mwatna, the human rights organisation based in Yemen, and Rete Disarmo, Italian disarmament network, and we filed it against UAMA officials, which are the official of the Italian Government who authorise weapons exportations, and against RWM Italia directors. The criminal complaint is focused on an airstrike that took place in a village in Yemen in which six people were killed, a family of six: a mother who was pregnant, a father and four children and we focus on that particular airstrike because on the scene a piece of material was found that was produced by RWM Italia."

C/U Photo of suspension lug

C/U Photo of suspension lug

SOT, Linde Bryk, lawyer at European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR): "Yes, so what you see here, this is the suspension lug that is used to connect the bomb to the fighter jet, and what we see here, is, we say, it says 'suspension,' it says the military standard, this is the US patent used to create such a piece. And then here, it shows A4447 and that is the code that is used by RWM Italia on its products. So this clearly indicates that it was from RWM Italia. And here we see a code which starts with "Rim" and this is a code that indicates when it was produced. So, this was the piece of evidence that was found. And some other parts of remnants, and we had an expert, an arms expert that checked those pictures to say what it was so he confirmed again that it was made by RWM Italia but he also confirmed that some of the other parts of the shrapnel that was found was of a guidance kit, and that means that the guidance kit was used under the bomb, and that you cannot have an error range of more than ten metres. And since it was a house of farmers that was hit, and there was no military object close by, this indicates that they were really targeted by the Saudis whereas they are civilians, so it clearly indicates that this amounts to a war crime."

C/U Bryk

SOT, Linde Bryk, lawyer at European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR): "It's a suspension lug that is used to connect a bomb to an airplane and some additional remnants were also found from a guidance kit of the bomb, so we had clear evidence that a product from RWM was used, a crime was committed, and the charges we ask the prosecutor to investigate in the criminal complaint are the complicity of RWM's Italian directors and UAMA officials in the murder of this family and also, we ask the prosecutor to investigate an abuse of power by UAMA in licensing these continuous exports to Yemen, or to Saudi Arabia being used in Yemen."

W/S Cagliari Airport; Elmas Airport

W/S Elmas Airport

W/S Airport

W/S Airport

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