No end in sight for US drone war via Germany

On 27 May 2015, the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) of Cologne dismissed the claim brought against the German government by three Yemeni citizens concerning the use of US military base Ramstein in drone attacks. The claimants as well as the ECCHR and London human rights organization Reprieve regret the decision. Together with the claimants the organizations have lodged an appeal.

Germany's responsibility for the US drone war: "See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing"

“Today’s decision allows the German government to continue to play the innocent,” said ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck after the hearing. “See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing – with this strategy the government cannot and will not be able to meet its obligation to prevent human rights violations committed by the USA via German territory. On the contrary, with this approach Germany is making itself complicit in the deaths of civilians as part of the US drone war.”

No drone strikes without Ramstein

Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “Without Germany – and other Western allies – the US could not fly the drones that kill innocent civilians like my client Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s family in Yemen. "For too long, the drone program has been allowed to operate in the shadows – away from judicial and public scrutiny. Whilst we may have lost today, this hearing was an important step in the direction of greater transparency and accountability.” Sönke Hilbrans, lawyer for the familiy, added: “The obligation to protect human rights also applies to countries like Germany who don’t want to play an active role in conflict.”

Drone strike survivors are traumatized

The claimants survived a drone strike in Yemen in which Ramstein played a central role. Two of their relatives died in the attack, while many other family members have been left traumatized.
“I had hoped that today the Court would restore Yemen’s faith in the West’s commitment to the rule of law, and that the German government would put a stop to its role in these illegal and immoral operations. But we will not give up: it is – quite simply – a matter of life or death for us,” said Faisal bin Ali Jaber after the court hearing, who brought the claim along with his relatives Ahmed Saeed bin Ali Jaber and Khaled Mohmed Naser bin Ali Jaber.

Declaration Faisal bin Ali Jaber for Court Hearing

Drones_Yemen_Hearing_Statement_FaisalBinAliJaber_engl.pdf (160.8 KiB)

The Family Bin Ali Jaber from Yemen vs Germany and the US
“Were it not for the help of Germany and Ramstein, men like my brother-in-law and nephew might still be alive today. It is quite simple: without Germany, US drones would not fly.” says Faisal bin Ali Jaber, survivor of a drone strike in Yemen and one of the claimants. On 15 October he and his relatives lodged a complaint against the German government. The three Yemeni nationals called on Germany to accept legal and political responsibility for US drone warfare in Yemen and to stop the use of the US military base and in particular the satellite relay station in Ramstein. “I am here to ask that the German people and Parliament be told the full extent of what is happening in their country, and that the German government stop Ramstein being used to help the US’ illegal and devastating drone war in my country,” said Faisal bin Ali Jaber.

The drone strike in Yemen on 29 August 2012
On 29th August 2012, five rockets fired by US drones struck the village of Khashamir in eastern Yemen. The extended bin Ali Jaber family had gathered in the village to celebrate a wedding. Two members of the family were killed in the strike. Other family members were left with ongoing trauma. The US military base in Ramstein was used to help carry out the attack. Despite this the German government continues to deny any responsibility for civilian deaths caused by US drone warfare.

European countries must stop helping the US drone war

“Ramstein is crucially important to US drone warfare. The German government must put an end to the use of this base – otherwise the government is making itself complicit in the deaths of innocent civilians,” said Andreas Schüller, head of the International Crimes and Accountability program at ECCHR. “Ramstein must no longer be used to control drone strikes. Germany cannot simply hide behind the Status of Forces Agreeme.
A similar view is taken by Kat Craig, Legal Director of Reprieve who represents the bin Ali Jaber family and other victims of drone strikes: “Faisal knows all too personally the horrific consequences of US drone strikes. European countries must face up to their role in all this and stop helping the US carry out its illegal and devastating drone war.”

Targeted killings with drones

In the past few years, the deaths of alleged terrorists from targeted drone strikes have increased continuously. The US uses armed drones so far in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. These attacks often breach public international law and human rights standards. Alleged terrorists were killed without the possibility to defend themselves against allegations and in numerous cases the victims were civilians. European governments support the US by the exchange of information. The use of drones suspends the respect for the rule of law and democratic control, undermines the separation of armed forces, intelligence services and police, means poor access to justice for individuals and tightens new forms of warfare.


ECCHR analyzed the German prosecutor’s decision to discontinue investigations into the death of Bünyamin E. in Pakistan in October 2010. According to the ECCHR’s examination, the decision raises a number of serious doubts as to the application and interpretation of the law and shows insufficient investigations. The expert opinion is intended to enable the family of Bünyamin E. to exercise their rights. ECCHR is in contact with witnesses of drone strikes and supported the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in countering terrorism in drafting a report on legal standards for the use of drones. In addition, members of ECCHR have appeared as experts before the human rights committee of the German parliament and the faction of the left party. Moreover, they joined panel discussions regarding use of armed drones at events in Brussels, Tübingen and Bremen.

Brandon Bryant - a former US drone pilot reports


  • drone war
  • drones
  • Germany
  • Ramstein
  • USA
  • Yemen