Villaggio Mall lawsuit (re fatal fire, Qatar)

villagio_mall_via_wikimedia_commons

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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Article
8 February 2017

Qatar: Highest court rules defendants to pay 200,000 Qatari Riyals to families of fatal Villaggio Mall fire victims

Author: Gulf Times (Qatar)

"Court rejects appeal in Villaggio fire case", 7 Feb 2017

Qatar's Court of Cassation has rejected an appeal filed by the defendants in the Villaggio fire case...They had sought a reduction in the fines and penalties handed down by the Court of Appeal. The ruling of the Court of Cassation issued last Monday is conclusive and final...[T]he defendants have to collectively pay the blood money of QR200,000 [around $54 924] to each victim. The money has to be paid to the legal inheritors of the deceased...

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Article
30 June 2016

Qatar: Prosecutor appeals exoneration of defendants in lawsuit over Villaggio Mall fatal fire

Author: Arabian Business (UAE)

“Qatar prosecutor asks for new appeal in Villaggio fire case”, 22 Jun 2016

Qatar’s general prosecutor has reportedly appealed the latest court verdict that exonerated five people convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2012 fire at Doha’s Villaggio Mall in April…[T]he prosecutor’s decision…means the case will return to the Court of Appeal after the summer.  The Qatar Court of Appeal ruled in April that the five defendants should pay “blood money” to the victims’ families, but that they would not serve time in prison for the fire…It prompted Qatar’s general prosecutor to request an appeal of the verdict – this was upheld, though, in April.  The prosecutor’s latest decision to appeal the appeal verdict means the legal battle will continue.

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Article
28 April 2016

Qatar: Judge fines Villaggio fire defendants 200,000 Qatari Riyals without imposing jail time

Author: Peter Kovessy & Riham Sheble, Doha News (Qatar)

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Article
16 February 2016

Qatar: Court of Cassation overturns lower court decision to acquit Villaggio Mall manager & Gympanzee nursery co-owners over fatal fire

Author: Peter Kovessy, Doha News (Qatar)

"Parents hope for 'justice' after Qatar court orders Villaggio fire retrial", 15 Feb 2016

Five people who were convicted and then acquitted of involuntary manslaughter following the deadly 2012 Villaggio Mall fire will again face trial for their roles in the tragedy, Qatar's highest court has ruled.

The Court of Cassation said this morning that it is overturning an October decision by the appeal court to acquit the defendants and ordering a retrial, legal sources said.

The latest ruling means that Villaggio's chairman and manager, a municipal employee and the co-owners of Gympanzee daycare, where 19 people died will now face a third trial. The case is expected to be heard by the Court of Appeal...

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Article
23 November 2015

Qatar: Attorney General will appeal Villaggio fire acquittals

Author: Gulf Times

“Attorney General seeks to appeal Villaggio fire verdict”, 21 Nov 2015

The Attorney General HE Dr. Ali bin Fetais al-Marri on Saturday ordered the launch of an appeal process, seeking a review of the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the Villaggio mall fire case.  A Doha court of appeal had last month acquitted five persons, who were held responsible for the deadly fire by a trial court.  HE Dr. al-Marri has asked the Prosecution of Cassation to prepare a memorandum detailing the reasons cited for the ruling that acquitted all the defendants in the case…In one of the worst tragedies to hit Qatar, 19 persons including 13 children perished in the blaze that engulfed the Gympanzee daycare at the upmarket shopping complex in May 2012…Overturning the convictions, presiding judge Abdalrahman al-Sharafi of the Appeal Court said he cannot agree with the testimony given by the victims’ family members during the initial trial, arguing that one cannot be a witness as well as a plaintiff in the same case…

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Article
28 October 2015

Doha fire ruling 'very disappointing' - McCully

Author: New Zealand Herald (NZ)

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says it is "very disappointing" the convictions of five people responsible the Qatar mall fire that killed 2-year-old Kiwi triplets have been thrown out…Nineteen people…died as a fire ripped through the Gympanzee childcare centre in a Doha mall in 2012…A Qatari judge has now thrown out the convictions of four people convicted of involuntary manslaughter and a public servant charged with forgery in relation to the blaze…None of the five people convicted -- including Gympanzee childcare co-owners, the Villagio mall's chairman and manager and a public servant -- will serve any jail time…In the Court of Appeal ruling, Judge Abdalrahman al-Sharafi said he was throwing out all the testimony from family members that led to a guilty verdict, arguing they could not be witnesses and plaintiffs in the same case.  He found the company that owns the shopping centre guilty of manslaughter -- meaning the only avenue left for families is to seek financial compensation...

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Article
27 October 2015

Court of appeal acquits Villaggio fire case accused

Author: NRIcafe (Qatar)

A Doha court of appeal acquitted five persons, who were held responsible by a trial court for the deadly Villaggio mall fire.  However, the judge ruled that the company that owns the shopping centre was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  The ruling has enabled the families of the victims to seek financial compensation…The court asked the company to arrange with its insurance company and others to pay the blood money…[P]residing judge Abdalrahman al-Sharafi threw out the convictions against the defendants clearing them of several charges.  The judge said he cannot agree with the testimony given by the victims’ family members during the initial trial, arguing that one cannot be a witness and a plaintiff in the same case…The higher court’s verdict running into 154 pages means that no one will go to jail…However, the company has the right, said the court, to file civil lawsuits against its tenants who it thinks were responsible for technical faults that led to the fire...

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Article
26 October 2015

Qatar judge exonerates Villaggio fire defendants; Families storm out

Author: Peter Kovessy & Riham Sheble, Doha News (Qatar)

Qatar’s Court of Appeal today has thrown out the conviction of five individuals held responsible for the deadly May 2012 Villaggio Mall fire, but found the company that owns the shopping center guilty of involuntary manslaughter…The blaze, which started inside a sporting goods store, killed 19 people, including 13 children.  All of the victims suffocated inside the Gympanzee daycare…In his ruling, the judge said he was throwing out all the testimony given by family members of the victims during the initial criminal trial that led to a guilty verdict…Four people had appealed a June 2013 involuntary manslaughter conviction by Qatar’s lower criminal court, after each was sentenced to the maximum six years in prison…In 2013, a lower court ordered the defendants’ insurance companies to pay the blood money to each victim’s family, but many of those families continued to wait for the money, pending the appeal’s outcome…Meanwhile, the multi-million dollar lawsuits filed against Villaggio’s architects, developers, consultants and management firm, in addition to several other companies based in the US and Qatar are ongoing, but have been delayed by defendants failing to show up for hearings…

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Article
22 June 2015

UN report criticises Qatar legal system as victims of fatal Villaggio Mall fire await for justice 3 years after filing lawsuit

Author: NZME, in New Zealand Herald

"UN report critical of Qatari legal system", 20 Jun 2015

The parents of the Weekes triplets killed in a fire at a Qatar mall in 2012 say a UN report has confirmed their concerns with the Qatari legal system...The United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur specifically cited the Villaggio mall fire and highlighted the lack of due process affected families such as the Weekes had faced for the last three years...The report raised concerns about "serious" shortcomings in the Qatari legal system, which "negatively affect the independence and impartiality of the justice system, as well as the realisation of people's human rights."...The UN Report recommended that Qatar improve its legal systems - noting its "considerable financial capabilities" to do so. It also recommended that human rights mechanism like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights be ratified.

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Article
3 June 2015

Families of victims of Qatari Villaggio Mall fire file new lawsuits in USA & Qatar alleging mall's construction & management firms were negligent

Author: Lesley Walker, Doha News (Qatar)

"Families of children killed in Villaggio fire file lawsuits in US, Qatar", 1 Jun 2015

The parents of 13 children and one nursery teacher who died in the 2012 Villaggio fire have filed multi-million dollar lawsuits against the mall’s architects, developers, consultants and management firm, in addition to several other companies based in the US and Qatar. The civil suits were filed on Thursday, May 28…with the Los Angeles Superior Court in California, and Qatar’s court of first instance. The Qatar suit is calling for QR280 million (approximately $77 million) in compensation and damages for each of the victims…The US lawsuit argues that the companies being sued “engaged in willful, wanton and reckless disregard” for the lives and safety of those who died in the fire…The Qatar suit argues that “no one would have died had everyone carried out their duty” and that the deaths happened because of “human mistakes resulting from laziness, negligence and the desire to cut corners and save expenses”…[Refers to Business Trading Company (BTC), F+A, Gympanzee Nursery, Hempel, International for Decorations and Building, Intertech Group, Jotun, Sun and Sands Sports Qatar, Voltas Qatar, Qatari Company for Real Estate and Commercial Projects, Qatari Engineer and Assistants Company, White Young]

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