Central & South Asia

German court rejects Afghan airstrike case

Case of German-ordered US strike that resulted in death of more than 90 civilians dismissed over lack of evidence.

Last updated: 11 Dec 2013 14:14
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The ruling comes after a months-long investigation into an airstrike in the northern province of Kunduz [AP]

Kabul, Afghanistan - A German regional court has rejected a case accusing that country's forces in Afghanistan of killing scores of civilians in a 2009 NATO airstrike.

The court in Bonn ruled on Wednesday that there was no evidence that a German officer who ordered United States warplanes to bomb two hijacked fuel tankers had broken official regulations.

The ruling comes after a months-long investigation into the airstrike on the tankers in the northern province of Kunduz, which killed more than 90 civilians.

Karim Popal, an Afghan-German lawyer, representing 79 of the victims, said the strikes led to the premeditated deaths of up to 137 civilians.

The lead plaintiffs, an Afghan father who lost two children and a mother who lost the father of her six children in the September 4, 2009 incident are seeking compensation of 40,000 euros and 50,000 euros.

The German defence ministry, the defendant in the case, maintained that Colonel Georg Klein, who ordered the attacks, responded to orders given as part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan and was not acting solely on behalf of Berlin.

Case to be appealed

Speaking to Al Jazeera ahead of the ruling, Popal said he would pursue the case up to the highest authorities, including the European Court of Human Rights, a practice that normally requires internal judicial channels to be exhausted first.

Even before Popal brought the case before the regional court on March, 20, 2013, the reverberations of the worst case of civilian killings by coalition forces in Afghanistan could already be felt in German society.

Bonn court spokesman Philipp Prietze said that the ruling can be appealed, according to the Associated Press news agency.

For more than a year, far-left protesters have plastered the Western city with posters and banners declaring Klein a war criminal, Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi, an Afghan-German journalist for the Deutsche Welle news service, told Al Jazeera.

Germans who felt Klein should be held accountable for the airstrike were further angered by his promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General earlier this year, said Hasrat-Nazimi.

For Afghan-Germans, said Hasrat-Nazimi, the 1:49am attacks altered their perceptions of the 49,000 German forces in northern Afghanistan.

"They are disappointed and upset that no one seems to care about the Afghan civilians who died in this attack … Afghans living in Germany have always been proud of the German troops since they have more focused on rebuilding rather than fighting. Since Kunduz this perspective has changed," Hasrat-Nazimi told Al Jazeera.

'Little support from Berlin'

Residents of the Omar Khail village, where the attacks took place, said despite Popal’s efforts to bring international media attention to the case, they have seen little support from the German government.

"It was publicised on television and radio, even the Internet, but they [the Germans] act like it never happened. Popal and the journalist are the only ones who showed any interest in what we had to say," Haji Karim, whose two brothers - Ahmad Gol and Mohammad Agha Gol - aged 10 and 12 - were killed in the attack, told Al Jazeera.

In June 2010, nearly a year after the attacks, Families of 102 civilian victims received payments of $5,000 each, but Haji Karim said the funds were not distributed evenly.

"They selectively gave the money. They promised to help 140 families, but they lied," Haji Karim told Al Jazeera.

In October this year, the Germany's remaining 900 troops withdrew from Afghanistan and closed their base in the northern province.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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