A German court has decided to hear a lawsuit brought by the relatives of Afghan civilians killed in a NATO airstrike ordered by a Bundeswehr colonel. Judges want to see video footage recorded by US fighter jets.
The regional court in Bonn on Wednesday said it would first determine the course of events that led to the incident, before ruling on the compensatory claims of the relatives.
Judges demanded that video evidence recorded by US fighter planes be released by the German government within a month. It also called for access to recordings between the pilots and the German forward air controller who guided the attack in northern Afghanistan on September 3, 2009.
In August, the court is to question witnesses, who may include German officer George Klein, the colonel who ordered the air raid.
The attack, on two fuel trucks, killed between 91 and 141 people, with the victims' lawyers and the German government giving conflicting fatality figures. Accounts also differ as to how many of the dead were civilians. Klein ordered the strike after Taliban fighters had hijacked the fuel tankers at a checkpoint, murdering one of the drivers.
It remains unclear whether German commanders had seen aerial photographs of the area, which showed that civilians were near the trucks.
The case has been brought by an Afghan man who said he lost two children in the bombing, as well as a mother of six who said she lost her husband, the family breadwinner.
In its decision, the court stressed that, according to its preliminary assessment, the case was “neither inadmissible nor unfounded.”
The plaintiffs demand compensation of between 40,000 and 50,000 euros ($52,000 to $65,000).
The cases, brought against the German Ministry of Defense, are likely to set something of a precedent for similar hearings.
A lawyer for 79 plaintiffs who have filed for damages since the two cases were brought is demanding between 20,000 euros and 75,000 euros ($26,000-$98,000) in compensation for each of the victims.
rc/ipj (dpa, epd, AFP)