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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.

13:04
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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.

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