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Villaggio Mall lawsuit (re fatal fire, Qatar)

In 2012, the public prosecutor in Qatar brought a criminal case against seven individuals for their alleged involvement in the deaths of 19 people, including children, caused by a fire in the Villaggio Mall. The defendants include executives and staff of the Villaggio Mall. In 2017, the court jointly fined the defendants 200,000 Qatari Riyals for their failure to comply with obligatory health and safety requirements. 

 

In September 2012, the public prosecutor in Qatar brought a criminal case against seven individuals for their alleged involvement in the deaths of 19 people, including 13 children, in a fire at Villaggio Mall in Qatar, on 28 May 2012.

The defendants are: the two co-owners of the Gympanzee nursery caring for the children who died; the chairman and manager of Villaggio Mall and two other members of staff; and an official from the Ministry of Trade and Business responsible for the licensing of the nursery.

The prosecutor argued that the defendants failed to comply with obligatory health and safety requirements and failed to ensure that the nursery was appropriately licensed to operate.  The defendants denied these claims.  Some defendants argued that appropriate safety systems were in place, whilst others argued that the athletic company Nike should be implicated because a government-led investigation found that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring in a Nike store.

A lower criminal court handed down a judgment in June 2013.  The co-owners of the nursery and the chairman and manager of Villaggio Mall were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison each.  They were also ordered to pay 200,000 Qatari Riyals (around $54 924) to each of the victims’ families, as compensation.  The official from the Ministry of Trade and Business was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.  The two other defendants were cleared of all charges.  The criminal court referred the case to the civil court to decide on further financial compensation.

In November 2013, the defendants filed an appeal.

On Thursday 20 May 2015, the families of the victims file new lawsuits in USA and Qatar alleging mall's construction and management firms were negligent.

On 26 October 2015, a Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s manslaughter conviction. The judge threw out the testimony from the family members that led to the guilty verdict, arguing that plaintiffs could not be witnesses in the same case. He found that the company that owns the shopping centre to be guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which means the family members can claim compensation. In November 2015, Qatar's Attorney General ordered prosecutors to file an appeal of the verdict.

In February 2016, Qatar's highest court, the Court of Cassation overturned the appeals court decision of acquitting the manager of the Villaggio Mall and the co-owners of the Gympanzee nursery, and ordered a new trial.

In April 2016, after a new trial, a judge jointly fined the defendants 200,000 Qatari Riyals (around $54 924) for each of the deceased, but decided none of them will face jail time.  In June 2016, Qatar’s general prosecutor appealed the verdict.  In February 2017, Qatar's highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that the defendants have to collectively pay blood money of 200,000 Qatari Riyals to the victims’ families.  The decision of this court is final.

 

- "Court rejects appeal in Villaggio fire case", Gulf Times, 7 Feb 2017
- "Qatar: Prosecutor appeals exoneration of defendants in lawsuit over Villaggio Mall fatal fire", Arabian Business, 22 Jun 2016
- "Parents hope for 'justice' after Qatar court orders Villaggio fire retrial", Peter Kovessy, Doha News (Qatar), 15 Feb 2016
- "Attorney General seeks to appeal Villaggio fire verdict" Gulf Times, 21 Nov 2015
- "Qatar judge exonerates Villaggio fire defendants; Families storm out", Peter Kovessy and Riham Sheble, Doha News, 26 Oct 2015

تأجيل قضية حريق فيلاجيو إلى 30 مارس, أخبار ياهو‎ مكتوب, 15-02-2015 [AR]-
["Consideration of Villaggio fire case delayed until 30 March", Yahoo News Maktoob, 15 Feb 2015]

- “Tensions rise as Villaggio fire appeal hearing drags on”, Shabina S. Khatri and Riham Sheble, Doha News, 22 Dec 2014
- [AR] تأجيل النظر في قضية حريق فيلاجيو إلى 21 ديسمبر,هيثم القباني, الراية (قطر), 28-10-2014
["Consideration of Villaggio fire case delayed until 21 December", Haitham Al Qabani, Al Raya, 28 Oct 2014]
- “Five sentenced to jail over Villaggio blaze”, Peninsula, 21 Jun 2013
- [AR] سجن سفير قطر في بلجيكا وزوجته بقضية حريق فيلاجيو, الشمس (إسرائيل), 20-06-2013
["Qatari ambassador to Belgium and his wife are sentenced to prison in Villaggio fire case", Al Shams (Israel), 20 Jun 2013]
- “Villaggio Fire And The Year After: A Timeline”, JustHere Qatar, 27 May 2013
- “Villaggio fire trial postponed after lawyers ask Nike to be charged; defendants plead not guilty”, Doha News, 29 Nov 2012
- “'Electric fault' started deadly Qatar fire”, Al Jazeera, 13 Jun 2012
- [AR] تحقيق قطري: حريق فيلاجيو ليس مدبرا, الجزير ة (قطر), 2012-06-13
["Qatari investigation: Villaggio fire was not premeditated"], Al Jazeera, 13 Jun 2012
- [AR] توقيف مالك مجمع فيلاجيو التجاري بالدوحة وعدد من المسؤولين به, زابريس (المغرب), 2012-05
["Owner of Villaggio Mall in Doha is arrested, along with several other Mall officials", ZA Press, May 2012]
- “Qatar orders arrest of mall owner and managers over deadly fire”, Al Arabiya with Agencies, 30 May 2012

Qatari government:
- “Press conference on fire at Villagio”, Ministry of Interior (Qatar), 28 May 2012
- [AR] وزارة الداخلية تعقد مؤتمرا صحفيا حول حريق مجمع فلاجيو, وزارة الداخلية (قطر), 2012-05-28
["Ministry of Interior holds press conference on Villaggio Mall fire", Ministry of Interior (Qatar), 28 May 2012]

International Trade Union Confederation:
- “Qatar Villaggio Nursery Fire: Justice Elusive for Victims”, International Trade Union Confederation, 27 May 2013

Doha Centre for Media Freedom:
- “What went wrong with the media coverage of the Villaggio fire?”, Zainab Sultan, Doha Centre for Media Freedom, 30 May 2013

 

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