A court has ordered Germany to investigate the “strong evidence” that the US is “violating international law with its drone strikes” amid allegations of human rights abuses.
The higher regional court in Muenster, a city in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, ordered the government to investigate whether human rights and international laws were being violated by the US military.
The ruling, which was described in local media as “unexpected”, came after three Yemeni nationals took legal steps in Germany after their relatives were killed in an alleged US drone strike in Yemen in 2012.
Court spokeswoman Dr Gudrun Dahme said: “The Federal Republic [of Germany] must make sure that the US drone strikes in Yemen, which are operated from the US Airbase of Ramstein, are compatible with international law.
“They must also research whether the US is upholding international law. The court has seen strong evidence that the US is at least partially violating international law with its drone strikes.”
According to Dahme, the court’s senate “has particular doubts about whether the protection of the civilian population, provided by international humanitarian law, has been adequately implemented by the US”.
Dahme said that the law dictates that the US “can only attack military targets” and must “protect the civilian population as much as possible”.
Although the court sided with the three Yemenis in this regard, the senate ruled against their demand to close down the Ramstein Air Base, which serves as the headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe.
Dahme said: “The lawsuit to stop the use of the Ramstein Air Base for US drone strikes in Yemen was unsuccessful.”
The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which supported the Yemeni nationals in their case, said they were delighted with the ruling.
Their lawyer Andreas Schueller hailed it as “an important step” to stop the US drone programme, which according to him is “contrary to international law”.
Meanwhile, according to local media, the German Ministry of Defence has repeatedly stressed there is no evidence that Ramstein is used for US drone strikes.
The German government can appeal the ruling.
In a separate case at the Muenster court, the complaint of a Somali man whose father reportedly died in a drone strike in his native country in 2012 was dismissed.
The court could not determine whether the man was definitely killed in a US air strike and they failed to show any culpability on the part of the German government.
Ramstein Air Base has been the target of frequent protests by anti-war groups and activists who condemn the use of drones to kill enemy combatants.
According to the New York Times citing US military data, 225 people have been killed in Somalia in 24 strikes in the first months of 2019 alone.
In 2018, 326 people were killed in 47 attacks targeting Islamic terrorist cells.