On 31 July, the Italian government has suspended Rheinmetall bomb export licenses to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, involved in the Yemen war, for 18 months.
The company’s Italian subsidiary, RWM Italia, produces bombs that are exported to Saudi Arabia and used to bomb Yemen, in a war which has no legitimacy under international law and has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian victims, including thousands of children and 22 million people surviving on external aid.
«We have asked the company to stop selling bombs to the Saudis because this is a violation of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights», says Tommy Piemonte of BKC. «The principles clearly state that a company must ensure that its products and services do not violate human rights, and this is clearly not the case in Yemen».
Other questions at Rheinmetall’s AGM have been asked by Rete Italiana per il Disarmo (Italian Network for Disarmament), Urgewald (a German environmental and human rights organisation), ECCHR (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights) and Greenpeace Germany, accompanied by months of protests and demonstrations in Italy and Germany. On 31 July, as a response to the pressure of civil society organisations and critical shareholders, the Italian government has decided to suspend RWM Italia’s export licensed to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for 18 months.
«It is a first, significant victory for our joint engagement», continues Tommy Piemonte. «Of course, as critical shareholders, we would have preferred that the company suspends its controversial exports autonomously, before being forced by a government. Nevertheless, we are happy that our efforts have contributed to put a spotlight on Rheinmetall its involvement in the Yemen war».
On 12 September RWM Italia has declared that, following the decision of the Italian government, it will cut 160 jobs (out of 200) in its plant of Domusnovas, in Sardinia, where the bombs are produced. An area with high unemployment where the dismissed workers will find it difficult to find new jobs. «The workers have been deceived for years by a company that, while reassuring them of the legitimacy of its activities, was only interested to its own advantages», declared the Comitato Riconversione Rwm (Rwm Reconversion Committee), which brings together 40 Sardinian and national pacifist organisations.