A German court dismissed on Wednesday a claim brought by three Yemenis in which they accused the German government of complicity of civilian deaths that were the result of a 2012 U.S. drone attack in Yemen, british daily The Guardian reported.
The claimants argued that if it was not for information allegedly relayed by U.S. airbase Ramstein in Germany, the drone attack would not have been possible and their relatives would still be alive.
Although dismissed, the case remains a milestone as it marks the first time a court in a country lending support to the controversial U.S. drone program has allowed these claims to be heard, The Guardian reported.
Although Judge Hildeund Caspari-Wierzoch acknowledged the plausibility that the base had played a role in the drone strike - contrary to what the U.S. and German governments claim - Germany was under no legal obligation to bar the United States from using Ramstein.
“The German government is not obliged to prohibit the USA from using Ramstein airbase for the execution of drone attacks in Yemen,” she said adding it was not “politically realistic” to terminate the Ramstein contract with the U.S.
But she did allow the claimants to appeal the decision, giving way for the case to be heard again before a German court within months.
In a written statement to the court, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who brought the claim along with his relatives Ahmed Saeed bin Ali Jaber and Khaled Mohmed Naser bin Ali Jaber, argued that his brother-in-law and nephew would still be alive but for Germany, as the U.S. “would not have been able to fly drones over Yemen.”
The case, brought by Faisal bin Ali Jaber, was built around reports that Ramstein sends crucial information via satellite to drone operators in the U.S. that enable communication with unmanned aircraft in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere.
The reports, by German newspaper Der Speigel and U.S news website the Intercept, cite experts but the United States is yet to confirm or deny these claims.
Lawyer for the German defense ministry Stefan Sohm argued that Germany could not be expected to act as “a global public prosecutor towards other sovereign states.”
Germany is satisfied with U.S. assurances, as recent as January, that “no drones are commanded or controlled from Germany,” the British daily reported.
Although disappointed by the ruling, international human rights organizations that stood behind the case welcomed that it had been heard in a court of law.
“The door’s open only a crack, but that’s all we need. Our foot is firmly wedged to stop it from closing,” legal director of London-based Reprieve Kat Craig was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“It’s very positive that the court recognized that our concerns around Ramstein were plausible, that the case was admissible and took the rather unusual step for them to immediately allow us to appeal,” she said.
“This is an important issue that has real relevance for Germany, and this is just the first step in a bigger process to help innocent people like Faisal and his family to live without being in constant fear of death by drones.”
Faisal bin Ali Jaber said in a statement issued through his lawyer: “Today’s hearing was a momentous occasion for drone victims. Of course, it is disappointing that we did not win. But the fact that - finally - our opinions are being expressed in court is a victory in itself. I am very pleased that we have been given permission to appeal: I will continue to place my faith in the law and German justice to keep me and my family safe.”SHOW MORE