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

 

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
14 February 2015

Tears as TV footage of Villaggio fire played in Qatar appeal court

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

…[D]uring Thursday’s hearing, the court revisited some of the main issues raised during the criminal trial…This included whether Gympanzee was licensed as a nursery or a playroom for children…[The] defense lawyer…highlighted discrepancies in maintenance reports that some said showed the water pumps connected to the mall’s fire suppression system were in need of repair…[A] Civil Defense employee testified seeing inspection reports before the fire that stated some of the interior decorations inside Villaggio were made of flammable materials that would emit toxic fumes if burned. The mall had been instructed to change the decorations in order to meet building regulations…The next hearing is scheduled for March 30…

Read the full post here

Article
+ العربية - Hide

Author: أخبار Yahoo مكتوب

قضت محكمة الاستئناف القطرية بتأجيل قضية حريق فيلاجيو إلى 30 مارس المقبل لسماع عدد من شهود الإثبات من خبراء ومفتشي الإدارة العامة للدفاع المدني...واستمعت الهيئة القضائية الاستئنافية إلى شهادة عدد من مفتشي وخبراء الإدارة العامة للدفاع المدني. وبدأت الجلسة بأن استعرض القاضي رئيس المحكمة ردود الجهات المعنية بالقضية من ملفات وأوراق ومستندات. وقدم محامو المتهمين كشوفات بأسماء شهود يطلبون مثولهم أمام القضاء لاستيضاح بعض الأقوال والأدلة الواردة في ملف القضية، وقد وافقت المحكمة على إعلان هؤلاء الشهود...ووجه المحامون أسئلة عديدة للشاهد عن إجراءات السلامة ، والتقارير الفنية واللوجستية التي رفعت قبل وقوع حريق فيلاجيو وبعد الحريق مباشرة...وأجلت المحكمة سماع بقية شهود الدفاع المدني لجلسة لاحقة، بناءً على طلب المحامين...[يشير المقال أيضا إلى جيمبانزي] 

Read the full post here

Article
22 December 2014

Tensions rise as Villaggio fire appeal hearing drags on

Author: Shabina S. Khatri & Riham Sheble, Doha News (Qatar)

...[T]he Villaggio Mall fire appeal hearing resumed [yesterday]…The appeal has now entered its 13th month, and its pace has slowed considerably after a new judge was appointed to preside over the case in October…The convicted individuals include Villaggio’s chairman, its manager, the co-owners of the improperly licensed Gympanzee nursery and the bureaucrat who gave the child care center its business permit…[T]he prosecutor requested that the court set a final date for defense lawyers to submit their requests. But he was rebuffed by the presiding judge…

Read the full post here

Article
+ العربية - Hide

Author: (هيثم القباني, الراية (قطر

قررت محكمة الاستئنافتأجيل النظر في قضية حريق فيلاجيو إلى 21 ديسمبر القادم.وقد حضر جلسة يوم أمس جميع المتهمين المستأنفين ومحاموهم، باستثناء المتهم الثالث لوجوده خارج البلاد، حيث رفضت المحكمة طلب النيابة إسقاط حقه في الاستئناف نظرًا لعدم حضوره عدة جلسات متتالية…وكانت محكمة أول درجة قد قضت بمعاقبة المتهمين الأربعة بالحبس ست سنوات عما أسند إليهم من اتهام وإلزامهم بالتضامن فيما بينهم وبالتضامن مع شركة التأمين بأن يؤدوا لورثة المجني عليهم الدية الشرعية وتقدر بمائتي ألف ريال عن كل متوفى توزع بينهم حسب الأنصبة الشرعية.[يشير المقال أيضا إلى جيمبانزي, نايكي]  

Read the full post here

Article
21 June 2013

Five sentenced to jail over Villaggio blaze

Author: Peninsula (Qatar)

…[A] lower criminal court yesterday sentenced four people to six years in jail at the end of a nine-month hearing in the Villaggio Mall fire case. A fifth defendant was handed down five years in jail, while two of the seven defendants were cleared of all charges…Those convicted include two co-owners of Gympanzee and the owner and manager of the mall. The mall’s assistant manager and head of security were cleared of all charges. All the five will get 15 days to appeal and will remain out of custody until the appeal process is completed...The court also ordered payment of blood money of QR200,000 each to families of all the 19 victims. It referred the case to the civil court to decide on other financial claims, including material and emotional damages, by the families…

Read the full post here

Article
20 June 2013

Five sentenced over Doha mall fire

Author: Mereana Hond, Aljazeera (Qatar)

A Qatari court has sentenced five people to jail terms in connection with [the] deadly [Villaggio shopping mall fire in May 2012]...that resulted in the death of 19 people [including 13 children and two firefighters]...Four received six-year jail terms, while the fifth received a five-year term. Those convicted include two co-owners of the nursery and daycare centre which was engulfed by the flames, and members of the management of the mall. Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, one of the co-owners, is also currently Qatar's ambassador to Belgium, while Iman al-Kuwari, the other co-owner, is the daughter of Qatar's culture minister...families of the victims had "a very profound reaction" to the verdict, with most describing feelings "of elation and relief"." They believe that justice has been served [...] and the right people have been found guilty.

Read the full post here

Article
+ العربية - Hide

Author: (الشمس (إسرائيل

بعد عام من حريق المركز التجاري في الدوحةقضت محكمة في الدوحةبإدانة خمسة أشخاصومن ضمن الخمسة سفير قطر في بلجيكاوزوجته، وقضت المحكمة بسجنهما ست سنوات، ودفع تعويضات للضحايا.والشيخ علي وزوجته هما من يملكان الحضانة.… كما قضت المحكمة بنفس العقوبة على مدير مركز "فيلاجيو" التجاريإضافة إلى نائبه

Read the full post here

Article
30 May 2013

What went wrong with the media coverage of the Villaggio fire?

Author: Zainab Sultan, Doha Centre for Media Freedom (Qatar)

[The Villagio fire] managed to stir a debate on the credibility of the local media and the way journalism is conducted in Qatar…Al-Sayed [editor-in-chief of the Peninsula] explained that the newspaper received an order from the court to not publish any news related to the [Villagio fire] trial until the verdict is out. “We were covering the court trial but then we received a court order and we had to stop,” Al-Sayed said, adding that “sometimes the court decides not to make the proceedings public and we have to follow the law...”…Doha News also faced restrictions from the court regarding what they can publish on their website about the trial…Al Sharq newspaperalso mentioned the court order gagging coverage of the case[Also refers to Gympanzee Nursery]

Read the full post here

Article
28 May 2013

Officials say fire safety has improved a year after blaze killed 19 people, but families still search for justice

Author: Omar Chatriwala and Shabina S Khatri, Al Jazeera

Parents of the children who died [[in the Villaggio mall fire] urged Qatari residents to "pause and remember" their suffering [on the first anniversary of the fire]. They also renewed calls for the Qatari government to make public all details of its investigation into the fire....Nathan Goddard, a British health and safety engineer who has worked in Qatar for 15 years, said there were issues not just with regulation, but also with implementation and building maintenance across the board. "It's a general problem, not just in Qatar, but across the Gulf - some companies will do it and some companies say they're going to do it, but when you look into it deeply you find things like fire alarms not working properly and fire exits locked," he said...[C]ourt proceedings to determine who is at fault for the 19 deaths are ongoing...Among the defendants are Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's Ambassador to Belgium, and his wife Iman Al-Kuwari, daughter of Qatar's culture minister, the co-owners of the Gympanzee daycare centre where the children died...Also implicated in the trial is Villaggio's owner, Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Rabban, as well as the mall's manager, assistant manager and head of security. The final defendant is the official from the ministry of business and trade who was responsible for Gympanzee's commercial permit. [also refers to City Center mall]

Read the full post here

Article
27 May 2013

Qatar Villaggio nursery fire: justice elusive for victims

Author: International Trade Union Confederation (Belgium)

Qatar’s Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg…and his wife…are facing criminal proceedings in Qatar over the…lack of fire safety and protection at the nursery, which they owned. Despite court orders, Ambassador Al Thani and Mrs Kawari have failed to appear at several trial hearings…, causing lengthy delays in the trial…The charges against…[them] allege that “by their error, they caused the deaths… by not taking into account the laws and regulations … without providing the means of safety and security against fire”. They are also accused of running a nursery facility without the approval of the…government authorities and without adhering to public health and safety conditions”. Five others, including mall management and one government official, are also facing charges…The delay in criminal proceedings has also meant that civil action for damages…cannot move forward…[Also refers to Villaggio Mall]

Read the full post here