By Daniel Shane
Thirteen children perished in fire at Villaggio Mall in Qatari capital one year ago today
The families of 13 children killed in a huge fire at a Qatar mall one year ago today are still waiting for justice, with defendants in the case still having failed to show up for court proceedings.
The blaze at the Gympanzee nursery in the Villaggio Mall left 19 dead in total, including four teachers and two fire-fighters. Among the dead children included the two-year old Weekes triplets from New Zealand, as well as victims from Canada, Egypt, the US, Spain and South Africa.
Qatar’s Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg Sheikh Ali Bin Jasim Thani Al Thani and his wife, who owned the Gympanzee nursery, face criminal proceedings over inadequate safety measures. However, the two have failed to turn up to several trial hearings in Doha, resulting in lengthy delays to legal proceedings.
“Families of those who so sadly lost their lives deserve better than this. While nothing can bring their loved ones back, their suffering has been prolonged without good reason,” commented International Trade Union Congress General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and people need assurance that the law has no favourites. The government of Qatar must face up to its responsibilities.”
Delays in criminal proceedings over the Villaggio Mall case have also meant that family of the deceased teachers in South Africa and the Philippines have been unable to claim compensation over their deaths.
The General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation Bernadette Segol has written to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy to raise concerns over the handling of the case.
Key points in the prosecution’s case include: that Qatari authorities had known since 2007 that illegal, flammable materials were used in the mall’s construction; for three years the Gympanzee nursery remained on the first floor of the mall, contrary to building reputations; lack of relevant safety permits, sprinklers, evacuation procedures and malfunctioning fire alarm equipment.