On 4 September 2009, two US fighter jets, acting on the orders of German army Colonel Georg Klein, bombed a large group of people and two tanker trucks on a sandbar in the Kunduz River in Afghanistan. More than 100 people were killed or injured. The subsequent reaction of the German government, army and prosecution authorities was inadequate and failed to conform to international human rights standards. The armed forces and the German government initially attempted to cover up the fact that most of the victims of the air strike were civilians. In addition, German authorities failed to initiate timely independent investigations to determine who was among the victims of the attack.
ECCHR is assisting the lawyers who since April 2010 have been representing a father who lost his two sons, aged eight and twelve, in the attack. As an initial step, a comprehensive legal analysis was undertaken examining the criminal liability of German actors for the airstrike. After the Public Prosecution's decision to discontinue its investigation, a claim was lodged with the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf to compel the authorities to bring charges in the case. In this submission, criticisms were leveled at the inadequate investigations undertaken by the Federal Prosecution. Those responsible for the attack have still not been held criminally accountable – the German Federal Prosecution discontinued its investigations in April 2010 and the State Prosecutor in Dresden and the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf have refused to carry out further investigations. The victims' families were offered 5,000 US dollars each, far too little for those families who lost their primary breadwinners. To date no official apology has been offered to those affected.
The efforts by ECCHR and others to hold those responsible criminally liable and to secure reparations for the victims and their relatives are grounded on the belief not only that the actions of German soldiers abroad must conform to legal requirements, but also that court proceedings are necessary in these cases in order to assess such military action in a transparent manner and in accordance with the rule of law. No such assessment has so far taken place in the context of the Kunduz airstrike. A constitutional complaint against the discontinuation of the criminal investigation is pending. A compensation claim is currently under review by the Regional Court of Bonn.