German court rejects appeal by NATO air strike victims

Court upholds previous ruling not to award compensation to relatives of Afghan civilians killed near Kunduz in 2009.

    German court rejects appeal by NATO air strike victims
    The Bonn court had said it believed the German commander had made sufficient checks [FILE - AP]

    A court in Cologne has rejected an appeal by relatives of the scores of civilians killed in a 2009 German-ordered NATO attack in Afghanistan, who were seeking to overturn a previous court decision throwing out their compensation claim against the German government.

    Cologne's Higher Regional Court upheld on Thursday the verdict of the district court in Bonn, which in 2013 ruled that the commander who ordered the air strike north of Kunduz city did not act negligently.

    "Today the senate decided to reject the Afghan plaintiffs' appeal against the verdict of Bonn regional court, which means the appeals court considers that nothing should be altered in the decision of the Bonn regional court in this matter," court spokeswoman Bettina Meincke said.

    The commander, Georg Klein, had called in a US fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks, which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban fighters.

    The Bonn court had said it believed the German commander had made sufficient checks, asking contacts at the scene seven times whether there were civilians there and each time hearing that there were not.

    The infra-red camera images available to him from the US jet could also not detect a civilian presence, the Bonn court had said, as people appeared only as dots, leaving it impossible to tell whether they were armed or if they were children.

    Further appeal avenue

    The relatives seeking compensation now have the option of appealing against Thursday's decision at the German Federal Court of Justice.

    "The plaintiffs have now lost in both instances, but the senate has expressly permitted appeal, meaning the plaintiffs have the possibility of lodging an appeal at the Federal Court against the Higher Regional Court's decision," Meincke said.

    The Afghan government said 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed in the strike. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians died.

    The high death toll from the attack sent shockwaves across Germany and ultimately forced its then defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, to step down over accusations he covered up the number of civilian casualties in the weeks leading up to the 2009 federal election.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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