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 – mainly civilians – were killed or injured. During the following investigations, the German government and military repeatedly put their own interests ahead of prosecuting those responsible.
ECCHR is assisting Abdul Hanan, a father who lost his two sons, aged eight and twelve, in the attack. On 26 February 2020 – ten years after the bombing – the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg will hear the case. Due to its extraordinary significance, the case will be argued before the Grand Chamber.
Colonel Klein failed to sufficiently verify whether and how many civilians were in the vicinity of the tankers prior to the attack. The German government and military tried to protect Colonel Klein and the other responsible parties by covering up the consequences of the airstrike. In January 2016, with the help of ECCHR, Hanan submitted an individual communication to the ECtHR against the German government. In August 2019, after three years of written proceedings, the ECtHR decided to hear the case before its Grand Chamber.
Taking the case to Strasbourg became necessary because the German Federal Prosecutor's investigation was insufficient. The failure to perform a genuine and thorough investigation led to it being prematurely closed in April 2010. The German investigations failed to conform to international human rights standards or grant redress to those affected. The German armed forces and government initially attempted to cover up the fact that most of the airstrike victims were civilians. Even the number of civilian deaths caused by the strike remains undetermined.
Those responsible for the Kunduz bombing have not been held criminally accountable. The German Federal Prosecutor ended its investigation in April 2010. In February 2011, the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf refused to carry out further investigations. Those affected have not received an official apology.
German soldiers' actions abroad must conform to legal requirements, and court proceedings to assess military action must be transparent and follow the rule of law. So far, the treatment of the Kunduz airstrike has failed to follow these principles.