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Demanding justice

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi / sbMarch 19, 2013

After the 2009 Bundeswehr air raid in Kunduz, the victims' families are still waiting for justice. They demand higher damages be paid and that the colonel who ordered the strike be brought before a court.

Members of the community attend a funeral after a NATO airstrike destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Kunduz on September 4, 2009. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Early on September 4, 2009, German Colonel Georg Klein ordered an airstrike in the north of Afghanistan on two hijacked fuel tankers near the German army base in Kunduz. The strike killed 91 Afghans and seriously injured 11. Most of the casualties were civilians, among them many children.

Four years have passed since the strike. Karimullah, a young man from the region, remembers the night. He told DW a number of people from his village had been at the trucks to siphon fuel. "And when the Bundeswehr struck, these people were killed."

Karimullah is one of the many family members of the victims. "It is a tragic case. We expect from the Germans and also the Afghan government that those responsible will be brought to justice." He said this is on the minds of many people who had family members killed in the strike.


The families have so far received 5,000 US dollars in damages for each victim. But for many of them, that is not enough. They are demanding justice. Two of the families were present in Bonn for the first trial to demand higher compensation and that Klein be brought to justice on Wednesday, March 20.

Karim Popal (Photo: Britta Pedersen/dpa/lbn)
Karim Popal represents dozens of people who were injured or lost family members in the attackImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Despite his poor judgment behind the airstrike, Klein has not been brought before a court. After the attack, the German Federal Prosecutor's Office investigated him on suspicion of a war crime. The investigation, however, was closed.

The attack became a controversial matter in German politics and eventually led to the resignation of Defense Minster Franz Josef Jung and the sacking of army chief Wolfgang Schneiderhan.

International legal significance

For Klein, on the other hand, things are looking up: Later this year, he will be promoted to brigadier-general. For the survivors, this is a slap in the face, said Karim Popal, lawyer for the families of the victims in Kunduz.

Popal has been involved with the Kunduz case from the beginning and represents the plaintiffs in court. He said the case has had great significance in international law but that Germany's Afghanistan policy has been a disappointment.

"The German government and people are in favor of international understanding and for rebuilding Afghanistan," Popal said. "But the way in which the government has been making policy in Afghanistan - ignoring the illegal trade in carpets and the lies of top politicians, concealing the information coming out of Afghanistan and last but not least, promoting someone who, in my view, is a war criminal - does not make the situation any better," he said.

Popal is in close contact with the families of the Afghan victims in Kunduz. They wrote a detailed letter to the German government, in which they asked for those responsible for the deaths of their children, their fathers and their families be brought to justice.

Abdul Daian (Photo: Marcel Mettelsiefen)
Abdul Daian lost both of his sons in the attackImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Marcel Mettelsiefen

"The Afghans are, of course, disappointed. This isn't justice we're dealing with, but the wrongful policies of the government with regard to Afghanistan," Popal said.

Anger over 'half-hearted help'

Just like Karimullah, Sayed Rasoul also still remembers the early morning of September 4, 2009 very clearly. His brother was one of the victims. Since the attack, he has been responsible for his orphaned nephews and nieces and barely knows how he will make ends meet, he said.

"The aid we were given was useless. If we had known that we would not be helped over the long term and that no one would think about the orphans three years on, we would have never accepted it."

Noor Jaan, who was seriously wounded in the attack, is also embittered. Close to tears and literally shaking with rage, he said "I lost a hand and half of the bones are missing in my shoulder. They promised to operate on me. But so far nothing has happened." The injured and bereaved would not have agreed to the aid if they had known that the aid would be only half-hearted, he said.

A decision was not passed the first day of hearings. What is also possible is an amicable termination of the proceedings. Germany has announced that it will request the charges be dismissed.