‘Is Our Blood Worth Less?’ Afghan Anguish After European Court Sides With Germany Over Airstrike That Killed 90 Civilians

Afghans and human rights advocates around the world expressed deep disappointment Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Germany in a case brought by victims of a 2009 NATO airstrike that killed as many as 90 civilians.

The New York Times reports a 17-judge panel of the ECHR ruled unanimously that the German government adequately investigated a September 3, 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province that targeted two fuel tankers stolen by Taliban fighters. Believing the militants might use the trucks as a mobile bombs, Col. Georg Klein, the German commanding officer of a nearby NATO base, ordered U.S. warplanes to destroy the vehicles.

According to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, prosecutors said Klein made several calls to an informant to ensure there were no civilians present before the strike. However, scores of Afghan civilians including children flocked to the trucks – which were stuck on a sandbank in the Kunduz River – to siphon off fuel at the Taliban’s invitation.

A German military investigation later found that as many as 90 civilians died in the massive explosion caused by the strike. The probe concluded that no charges should be brought against Klein.

Tuesday’s ECHR ruling stated that Klein “had not incurred criminal liability mainly because he had been convinced, at the time of ordering the airstrike, that no civilians had been present at the sand bank.” Klein was promoted to general in 2012.

The court also found there was “no violation” of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that it “had no reason to doubt” Germany’s assertion that it thoroughly investigated the airstrike as required under the charter, and that Klein had “not acted with the intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.”

The court’s findings gave no comfort to plaintiff Abdul Hanan, a farmer whose sons Abdul Bayan and Nesarullah – ages 12 and eight, respectively – were killed in the strike.

“They martyred a hundred people, they bombed us unjustly, so how can they come to this unjust decision?” Hanan told the Times after the ECHR ruling. “Is our blood worth less than the blood of a German?”

“I wanted the court to provide justice, to have mercy on us,” Hanan added.

In the aftermath of the mass killing, Germany offered $5,000 payments to families of civilians who died or were seriously injured in the strike. Hanan sought additional damages, as well as an admission by German officials that they failed to protect civilians. The German government argued that it was not legally responsible for the deaths since the airstrike was executed on behalf of the United Nations.

Last December, Germany’s constitutional court ruled that the country was not liable for the civilian casualties.

According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute, more than 43,000 Afghan civilians have been killed during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, now in its 20th year. Taliban militants have killed the most noncombatants, but thousands of men, women, and children have also been killed by US, allied, and Afghan government bombs and bullets.

Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

5 thoughts on “‘Is Our Blood Worth Less?’ Afghan Anguish After European Court Sides With Germany Over Airstrike That Killed 90 Civilians”

  1. All this has been swept under the rug. Georg Klein will not face any war crimes charges and might even be promoted. The ECHR, European Commission for Human Rights should be called the ECHW, the European Commission for Human Wrongs.

    1. So what would you have done, run the risk of the Trucks being turned into motorised Bombs to be used against your own camp or a civilian target?

      The Trucks were destroyed at about 2 am (local time) so if I would have been in charge and my informant told me that there are no Civilians in the area I too would have believed it, how often do you take your children to the local purveyor of stolen goods (where you run the risk of being raided by Law enforcement) at 2am?

      As tragic as the loss of life was, and the Troops (German in this case) should never have invaded and occupied Afghanistan, this was not a War Crime.

      1. “Informants” means nothing. They should have looked. Fuel has clear and obvious civilian uses, and blowing up masses of fuel would be a clear risk to anyone nearby. This was a foreseeable massacre.

  2. George Klein for Chancellor . George Klein for peace prize . George Klein for a nazi prize – like a freedom medal for valor .

  3. What? The strike was approved by the UN? If i recall Kofi annan stated in 2002 any war on Iraq will be illegal. So the western gangsters invoke the UN when it suits them. Also what business does Nato criminals have bombing Afghanistan or Libya?? These are blatant western crimes

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