Afghan civilian German war crime survivors not compensated

This video is about Germany. Hundreds demand justice for Kunduz massacre victims.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

German court rejects compensation claim from victims of Kunduz massacre

4 January 2014

Four years after the worst massacre by German troops since World War II—in the Afghan [province] of Kunduz where over 140 people died, including women and children—a Bonn state court has rejected an application for compensation from two of the victims’ families.

Qureisha Rauf

The court ruled on December 11 that there was no “culpable breach of official responsibility” by the German commanding officer at the time, Colonel Klein. It also found that he did not breach international humanitarian law, which calls for the protection of civilians and which had led the claimants to pursue compensation. As a result, the German government could not be held retrospectively liable, the court stated.

Abdul Hannan

To the surprise of the victims’ lawyers, the collection of evidence was thereby halted, and witness statements, including from Klein, were not even recorded, although the court had approved the application in March.

Abdul Hannan, an agricultural worker, had claimed compensation for his two sons, aged 8 and 12, who were killed during the bombing. Another claimant was the widow Qureisha Rauf, whose husband died, leaving her with six children. Together they demanded €90,000 of compensation and damages. A further 77 families had lodged compensation claims. Their legal representatives in Bremen, Karim Popal and Dr. Peter Derlider, are now appealing to the upper state court in Cologne.

On the evening of September 4, 2009, Colonel Klein ordered NATO fighter jets to bomb two tankers that had been captured by the Taliban. After the lorries became stuck in a river bed, however, dozens of villagers gathered round the tankers to siphon off petrol. The bombing produced a horrific bloodbath, costing the lives of 140 people, mainly civilians, and severely wounding many more according to NATO figures.

Unlike NATO, which transferred their pilots after opening disciplinary procedures, the German government and defence ministry initially sought to deny the massacre, before going on the offensive to declare Klein innocent.

There was a parliamentary investigatory commission, as well as an investigation by the federal prosecutor, which was abandoned before criminal proceedings were launched. The German army did not even introduce disciplinary measures. In all these investigations, the official version of events was that Klein could not have known that civilians were in the area.

The final report of the federal prosecutor after the halting of the investigation in April 2010, which was kept secret, went a step further, making clear how much control the military leadership has over the decisions of the government and judiciary. The federal prosecutor’s office reportedly denied any breach of international law due to Klein’s “excesses.” It says, even the “killing of several dozen civilians protected [by international law]” had to be justified “out of tactical military considerations in anticipation of military advantages.”

To make clear that the military leadership would take no notice of the horrified response of the population, former Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union) demonstratively promoted Klein early in 2013 to the rank of brigadier general.

The ruling of the Bonn court must be evaluated against this background. Presiding Judge Heinz Sonnenberger declared at the announcement of the ruling that he had not reached his decision easily. The course of the proceedings indicated that the army exerted extreme pressure behind the scenes.

First, the chamber for matters of state liability stated at the opening of the proceedings on March 20 that the claim was “not obviously without foundation.” It opposed the call of government representative Dr. Mark Zimmer to immediately throw out the charges and announced a review of whether official responsibilities or the Geneva Convention had been breached. This would have provided the basis for individual compensation claims against the federal republic.

Zimmer, the government’s lawyer and a former major in the German army, opposed the judge sharply from the outset. Zimmer challenged the authority of the court, claiming Klein had not exercised “national sovereign power” and had been involved in the structures of the NATO ISAF mission. He also claimed that Germany could not be liable in the exceptional situation of a war—an argument which Berlin had not publicly used at the time of the massacre.

If Germany had to be concerned about liability claims for its role in every NATO mission, Zimmer said, this would be “a very burdensome situation for the soldiers.”

The defence ministry strictly rejected a settlement until the end. When judge Sonnenberger attempted in the first court hearing to reach a settlement and estimated that €3 million for 79 families was not a huge sum, an undersecretary of the defence ministry present heavily shook his head no. In fact, particularly given the estimated €26 to €47 billion spent on the German army’s mission in Afghanistan, such a settlement figure is ridiculously low.

Instead, Zimmer provocatively demanded that the claimants first prove that their relatives had died in the bombing. At the same time, Berlin recognised in the winter of 2009-10 that there had been 90 families of victims; each were paid $5,000 (€3,800) in a bid to bury the matter. According to the Bremen-based lawyers, this money only partly reached the victims’ families, because the German government used Afghan channels which distributed the money exclusively to men. Women who had lost their husbands got nothing, including claimant Qureisha Rauf.

On April 17, the court decided upon gathering of evidence. It called on the German government to provide videos from the US fighter pilots at the scene and the radio recording of communications between the pilots and the German commanding officer. In addition, the court planned to take witness statements in August.

Why the proceedings only commenced with the video and radio recordings on October 31 is not clear. Apparently, a months-long tug of war over the release of the evidence took place. In fact, the requested videos and radio recordings reached the court in unedited form, without translations and partially in the wrong order, the office of Karim Popal reported.

Finally, the December 11 ruling, which rejected the claim, unmistakably reflected the views of the defence ministry and the army leadership. It claimed that Klein had correctly identified the two bombarded tankers as military objects; that the trucks could have been useful for Taliban logistics and could be used in a possible attack; and that Klein had confirmed on a total of seven occasions with a military informant that there were only combatants and no civilians around the tankers.

It also claimed that infrared footage from the American fighter jets had only shown indistinct points; that one could neither determine the size or age of the people from these points nor identify if weapons were being carried; and that a “show of force” flight, suggested by NATO pilots in order to warn potential civilians, was not necessary, as Klein did not have to assume that civilians were in the area.

These are clearly the arguments of the army leadership. Even the commander of the ISAF operation at the time, US General Stanley McChrystal, criticised Klein for abandoning the regular “show of force” flight and demanded his dismissal. However this failed due to the opposition of the German defence ministry.

The fact that Klein explicitly rejected the low flyover to warn civilians was used by the claimants as evidence of a gross breach of international law.

Finally, the court fell into line with the defence ministry over whether individuals could sue on the basis of international law. While the court had in March called into question the defence ministry’s position, now judge Sonnenberger declared that international law could only be the basis of claims between states. This had been established by a unanimous ruling of the German Constitutional Court on August 13, on a complaint brought by victims of the NATO bombardment of the “bridge of Varvarin” during the Kosovo war.

In May 1999, the German government led by the Social Democrat-Green Party coalition ordered for the first time the direct participation of the German army in a NATO intervention. German reconnaissance planes helped provide lists of targets in Serbia, including the bridge near the town of Varvarin, and allegedly provided cover for the bombing on the day of the attack. Ten civilians were killed in the bombardment, and many more injured. Relatives later also lodged claims for compensation against the German government, which they lost at all levels, including first at the same chamber of the Bonn state court as the Kunduz victims.

The Bonn court ruling provoked controversy within legal circles. On Legal Tribune Online, an expert on crimes under international law, Denis Basak, stated that it was problematic that the court “had adopted the questionable view of the federal prosecutor in its decision to halt criminal prosecutions and only partially reviewed international humanitarian law.”

The real question, he said, was “whether General Klein should have been allowed to rely on an informant as a source, who was not even in the area at the time of the attack but only passed on messages he had heard, without any further review.”

The state court had to apply a higher standard than the federal prosecutor, “since public liability does not depend upon a paragraph; an objective breach of duty is sufficient.”

Basak also asked why the court did not deal with General Klein’s “deliberately false reports” to the US pilots. Klein had called for the fighter jets on the grounds that there were “troops in contact,” which according to the rules of engagement was the precondition for an air attack.

Basak continues: “The ruling fits to a situation of drone attacks and targeted killings which shows that international humanitarian law is applied to the so called ‘good’ nations in the ‘war against terror’ only in a very limited way.”If the Bonn ruling is confirmed at the upper state court in Cologne, this will be a further step in the emergence of German militarism. It gives the army leadership a free hand to inflict civilian casualties in the course of a military mission with complete disregard for international law. It also makes clear how the military now sets the tone for the judiciary and is trying to turn the courts into instruments to assist them in their operations.

THE number of Afghan civilians killed during violence caused by US-led occupation jumped nearly 17 per cent in the first half of this year: here.

Afghan NATO bombing victims’ legal victory

This video is about the German Kunduz massacre in Afghanistan.

This video is also about the Nato airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan in 2009, which killed up to 142 people, mainly civilians. US forces launched the strike on fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, following advice from German ground troops.

From Associated Press:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:19 AM

German court sees merit in Afghan airstrike case

BERLIN — A German court says a case brought by relatives of Afghans killed in a 2009 NATO airstrike ordered by German forces has merit, and it now plans to proceed with a review of evidence.

The Bonn regional court says it wants to see video material recorded by the American fighter jets ordered by a German colonel to bomb two stolen fuel tankers in the Afghan region of Kunduz.

The airstrike killed 91 Afghans and injured 11, most of them civilians, causing a political furor and the resignation of several senior officials in Germany.

The Bonn court said Wednesday that the two plaintiffs might be entitled to compensation if the German colonel is shown to have failed to protect civilians as required by the Geneva Conventions.

Photo Gallery: Afghan Workers Left in Danger by German Military: here.

Dutch workers fight austerity

This video from 1977 is about strikes by Rotterdam dock workers and other workers in the Netherlands.

This Dutch video from June 2012 is about government plans making it easier for bosses to sack workers.

Translated from regional Rijnmond radio in the Netherlands:

Possible strike in port and public transport

08/13/2012 | 7:57

There may be strike action in the port and public transport in Rotterdam on September 10. The trade union federation FNV then wants to protest against government policy.

FNV executive member Stanly Bergwerf has announced this on Radio Rijnmond. The union began this Monday morning handing out flyers at Rotterdam Central Station. According to the union, the plans of the Kunduz coalition

There was a minority Rightist government in the Netherlands, with support in parliament by Geert Wilders’ xenophobic PVV party. After a quarrel with Wilders, the government collapsed, causing new elections on 12 September. The collapsed Rightist coalition reached an agreement on further anti-worker cuts. Shamefully, partners in this agreement were the D66 and GroenLinks parties, supposedly left of center. These two parties had earlier agreed with the Rightist government to have Dutch soldiers and police in the north Afghan Kunduz province as Dutch participation in the Afghan war. Hence, the name “Kunduz coalition”.

disastrous for workers and also for some employers. The union means the government policies of making it easier for bosses to sack workers, raising the retirement age and the abolition of the commuter support.

On September 8, four days before the election, there is a national day of action with meetings across the country. Two days later, there may be the strike action in Rotterdam.

Europe is paying the price for its leaders’ catastrophic austerity policies, the EU’s own statistics agency revealed today: here.

German Afghan war atrocities exhibition

This video is about the German Kunduz massacre in Afghanistan.

This video is also about the Nato airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan in 2009, which killed up to 142 people, mainly civilians. US forces launched the strike on fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, following advice from German ground troops.

By Wolfgang Weber in Germany:

Munich exhibition documents German army atrocity in Afghanistan

8 February 2011

On the night of September 4, 2009, the order by German army Colonel Georg Klein to bomb a gathering of villagers, including many children and young people, in the province of Kunduz, Afghanistan resulted in exactly 91 deaths, as well as a number of serious injuries.

These were the facts exposed by two journalists, Stern magazine editor Christoph Reuter and photographer Marcel Mettelsiefen, after several weeks of research. The results of their work are now being presented from February 2 to 20—paralleling the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) security conference—at Munich’s House of Literature in the exhibition “Kunduz—September 4, 2009: Looking for clues” and published in book form under the same title by Rogner & Bernhard. The exhibition is a harrowing documentation of the greatest war crime committed by German officers since the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are due to answer questions on a military airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan in September 2009: here.

Two television films on German military operations in Afghanistan have been aired in the past several years. Both films, each in its own way, were aimed at undermining the widespread popular hostility to war. Foreign Assignment (2012, Till Endemann) justifies the deployment of German armed forces for war purposes. A Murderous Decision (2013, Raymond Ley) makes it clear that as far as the filmmakers are concerned, mistakes and civilian casualties are a normal occurrence in the course of such operations: here.

Probe into embezzled money in Kabul Bank has been ordered as the general prosecution officials said: here.

U.S. “Choosing to get” Afghanistan “fundamentally wrong”: here.

Afghan Air War Doubles: Now 10 Attacks Per Day: here.

An ex-soldier deafened by a bomb in Afghanistan has appeared in court in Belfast charged with rape and false imprisonment. Gerald Verner, 23, of Forthriver Park, is also accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm, sexual assault and threats to kill against the same woman: here.

WikiLeaks: Brown urged McChrystal to play down Afghan situation: here.

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German war crime in Afghanistan whitewash

This video says about itself:

Germany in the dock over Kunduz airstrike

20 March 2013

Relatives of Afghans killed by an airstrike ordered by a German NATO officer in northern Afghanistan have taken Germany’s government to court.

The country has already paid more than 400,000 dollars – or 330,000 euros – in what it calls aid. The families from Kunduz want ten times that amount.

At the courthouse in Bonn, federal government lawyer Mark Zimmer said: “Of course I can understand these people because they suffered a terrible fate. At the same time, it is our task to fend off this claim because Bonn District Court is not the right place for it. There are rights based on international law and there are payments which have already been made, also by the German government.”

Karim Popal, a lawyer for the plaintiffs countered: “The goodwill aid payments of 5,000 dollars were handed out in a men’s assembly, so a lot of orphans and widows received nothing. A lot of strangers lined their pockets. Some of our clients received this aid, others did not.”

Scores of people were killed or maimed in September 2009 when two stolen fuel tankers were hit in the airstrike.

The planes were American, but the order came from a German commander.

Germany’s lower house of parliament said it was ‘one of the most serious incidents involving the German army since World War Two.’

By Markus Salzmann in Germany:

German army abandons investigation of officer who ordered Kunduz massacre

25 August 2010

No one is to be held accountable for the single biggest massacre carried out by German soldiers since the Second World War.

Following the lead of the federal prosecutor, the army has also abandoned its investigation into Colonel Georg Klein, who almost a year ago ordered an air attack near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that claimed up to 142 mostly civilian victims. Preliminary investigations had produced no evidence of a breach of discipline, the Defence Ministry in Berlin said last week. Consequently, there would be no disciplinary proceedings against Klein.

In April, the federal prosecutor had concluded that the dropping of two 500-pound bombs onto two immobilised tankers that were clearly surrounded by numerous people, did not constitute a violation of “international humanitarian law”. Klein had not infringed international law nor had he breached Germany’s criminal code, the federal prosecutors claimed in order to justify their decision.

The abandonment of all investigative and disciplinary proceedings against Klein equates to a “first class acquittal” according to Spiegel Online. The website accuses the military investigators of acting out of a “misunderstanding of the esprit de corps”. The colonel will not even receive a warning, although a NATO investigative report shows he clearly violated the existing rules of engagement.

At the same time the proceedings against Klein were abandoned, the parliamentary committee of inquiry supposed to investigate the background of the massacre in Kunduz has been transformed into a farce.

On formal grounds, the Federal Court of Justice dismissed a request by opposition representatives to invite Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (Christian Social Union, CSU) and former Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) General Inspector Wolfgang Schneiderhan and ex-Defence Secretary Peter Wichert before the committee to clarify contradictions in their previous statements.

One Year After the Kunduz Air Strike: No Sign of a Full Investigation: here.

Kunduz Bombing Victim: ‘The Germans Lied to All of Us’: here.

Afghan massacre scandal in Germany continues

This video from Germany is called People and Politics | Death in Afghanistan – The Bundeswehr under fire.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

The return of German militarism: Colonel Klein goes unpunished

22 April 2010

The Karlsruhe federal prosecutor has closed an investigation into army colonel Georg Klein. This means that no one will face legal consequences for the deadliest bomb attack by the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) since its formation.

On September 4, 2009, Colonel Klein issued a command to bomb two hijacked tankers near the Afghan city of Kunduz. According to NATO sources, up to 142 people were killed as a result, including dozens of civilians. In the aftermath, senior German government and military circles tried to cover up the massacre. Only following press releases and pronouncements from the American authorities did the true extent of the massacre become known.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) had to resign because for several days after the attack he falsely denied knowledge that there were civilian victims. His successor, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg (Christian Social Union, CSU), initially defended Klein’s conduct, but then had to reverse himself, calling the attack “not appropriate militarily.” He dismissed General Inspector Wolfgang Schneiderhan and a state secretary for allegedly withholding documents from him. The Bundestag (federal parliament) even established a committee of inquiry to probe the Kunduz affair.

The federal prosecutor has now given Klein a free pass, absolving him of any criminal responsibility for the massacre in Kunduz. This will give the army a free hand to perpetrate similar massacres in future.

The reasons given by the prosecutor for this action mark a significant development of German militarism. An unelected federal agency with neither democratic legitimacy nor judicial powers has created a legal precedent that will have fatal consequences.

In a bid to quell public anger, Pakistan’s army chief was forced to issue a public apology last Saturday over the recent killing of more than 70 civilians near the Afghanistan border: here.

The regular killing of civilians has dramatically heightened the already pervasive hatred of occupation forces by the Afghan population, even as a steady build-up takes place of US and NATO troop numbers in the country: here.

Nothing to see here folks: covering up a massacre in Afghanistan: here.

NATO Kunduz strike illegal, Red Cross says

Translated from German weekly stern of today:

Bombing of Kunduz: Red Cross report damages Guttenberg

Despite his recent about-face: his hasty statement on the bombing of Kunduz has greatly injured the public image of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. A Red Cross report from Afghanistan means more pressure for the new Defense Minister, the stern reports.

Guttenberg, Red Cross, Kunduz, air raid

A report by the International Red Cross (ICRC), according to information from the stern, is expected to bring more trouble for Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in explaining himself. The aid agency has investigated in Kunduz, where the German army ordered the bombardment of the two tank trucks. According to information from the stern, the ICRC has concluded in a “strictly confidential” classified report that the attack, ordered by German colonel George Klein, was not “in conformity with international law”. Also, there had been too many civilian casualties of the bombing. In the annex to the report, the ICRC lists the names of 74 dead civilians, including eight-, ten- and twelve-year-old children.

The ICRC report was on Guttenberg’s table on 6 November. Nevertheless, he said hours later, at his first press conference as Minister of Defense, that the attack had been “militarily appropriate.”

See also here.

Red Cross: US Afghan troop surge will endanger more civilians: here.

Britain: Joe Glenton, the serving British soldier who refused to fight in Afghanistan, has been released from military prison in Colchester: here. And here.

The mayor of Kabul remains in his post despite being jailed for corruption, casting doubt on Western-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s claim that he’s serious about tackling rampant graft and bribery in his administration.

UN Afghanistan survey points to huge scale of bribery: here.

ARMUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan soldiers shot dead four civilians who were demonstrating against a NATO-led attack in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, witnesses and a Reuters journalist said: here.