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DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi court ruled on Friday that the state must pay 3.8 billion riyals ($1.2 billion) to victims of the 2007 Sadaa al-Arakan gas tragedy, which killed about 1,200 people, mostly children.
The verdict was announced just a day after The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case brought by Kuwait, which is suing Saudi Arabia’s government for its role in the disaster in the eastern province of Al Qassim.
The court said it would consider the appeal from Saudi Arabia.
According to documents seen by Reuters, Sadaa was one of two oil field in an oil-rich territory north of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, where a blast in which 11 oil tankers exploded in June of 2007 was blamed on an inexperienced Saudi team.
At least 838 people died in the disaster, while hundreds remained missing.
Saudi Arabia has said the deaths were a consequence of mistakes and that the country was at fault.
Kuwait and its clients were allowed to pursue an appeal in the case, citing the high court’s role overseeing disputes involving rich Arab states. Gulf companies are not allowed into the kingdom unless they have permission from the kingdom.
In their appeal on Friday, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice said this was contrary to the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decisions, which it said were a “permissible and well-established rule of international law”.
The appeals judges said the Saudi government had the right to defend its case and rejected the government’s arguments that the case should be brought before the court’s lower courts.
A member of the Kuwaiti family of victims reacts during a news conference after the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration regarding the case against Saudi Arabia at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
“The Kingdom did not prove that it was at fault for the tragic accident,” the court said in a statement.
There were conflicting interpretations before the court on whether the Saudi government was directly liable for what occurred. This was determined by the state’s role in the disaster, which it has acknowledged.
“The court decided unanimously that this was the case, and that a public interest was presented by the accident, and that it will make a decision at the appropriate time
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