Ramstein before the constitutional court

Germany’s responsibility in US drone strikes in Yemen


Berlin – Two Yemeni men whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike filed a complaint with Germany’s highest court in the case Bin Ali Jaber v. Germany. The case deals with Germany’s responsibility to protect the bin Ali Jaber family from further attacks involving the US Ramstein Air Base in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Salem and Waleed bin Ali Jaber were killed by missiles fired from a US drone in August 2012. Salem was an imam, and had preached against Al-Qaeda just days earlier. His nephew Waleed was a  policeman. To this day, the US has never formally acknowledged the strike.

In March 2019, the Higher Administrative Court in Münster had still ruled that Germany must work to ensure that the US comply with international law when using the military base. In November 2020, the Federal Administrative Court overturned this judgement in the appeal proceedings, and ruled that the diplomatic efforts of the German government would suffice regardless of whether the US drone missions violated international law.

Today, the plaintiffs Ahmed and Khalid bin Ali Jaber, supported by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Reprieve, filed a constitutional complaint against this ruling to the Federal Constitutional Court. The complaint asserts that:

  • the court should have obliged the German government to do more to protect the plaintiffs’ right to life;
  • that Ramstein’s significance for US drone attacks in Yemen is much greater than the court assumes; and
  • that the extent to which US drone attacks violate international law has not been sufficiently assessed.

Ahmed bin Ali Jaber said: “We still hear drones over our heads and we still live in fear. It is not possible to live a normal life – families still feel in danger. We place great hope in the German court.”

“Germany must do more to protect the right to life of the Jaber family,” added Andreas Schüller, head of ECCHR’s International Crimes and Accountability team. “The danger posed by drone attacks via Ramstein has not been averted, which is why we are turning to the Federal Constitutional Court today.”

“The US armed drone program is responsible for thousands of civilian casualties, and could not operate without the support of European partners, including Germany,” stated Jennifer Gibson from Reprieve. “With this legal filing, the bin Ali Jaber family is taking a stand for all the innocent victims whose lives should have been protected.”

The lawsuit on Germany’s role in the US drone program is part of ECCHR’s legal interventions on human rights violations by the US and its allies in the fight against terrorism. ECCHR and Reprieve have been working on lawsuits against US drone strikes around the world for nearly ten years.

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ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.

Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.

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