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.
ECCHR is assisting Abdul Hanan, a father who lost his two sons, aged eight and twelve, in the attack. On 22 January 2020 – ten years after the bombing – the Grand Court of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg will hear the case due to its extraordinary significance.
In January 2016, with the help of ECCHR, Hanan submitted an individual communication to the ECtHR against the German government. Taking the case to Strasbourg became necessary because the German Federal Prosecutor's investigations and decisions were insufficient, and led to its premature closing in April 2010. In August 2019, after three years of written proceedings, the ECtHR decided to hear the case before its Grand Chamber.
The German prosecution authorities failed to conform to international human rights standards. The German armed forces and government initially attempted to cover up the fact that most of the airstrike victims were civilians. The authorities also failed to initiate timely independent investigations to determine who the victims of the attack were.
Those responsible for the attack have not been held criminally accountable – the German Federal Prosecutor ended its investigations in 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 US$ 5,000 each, far too little for those who lost their primary breadwinners. No official apology has been offered to those affected.
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. This has not yet been the case with regards to the Kunduz airstrike.