A Yemeni man who lost two family members to a U.S. drone strike is suing the German government for its role in the attacks through its hosting of a U.S. military installation—Ramstein Air Base— which is critical to the covert drone war.
“Were it not for the help of Germany and Ramstein, men like my brother-in-law and nephew might still be alive today,” said Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who has traveled to Germany to levy the suit, with representation from international legal charity Reprieve and the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights. “It is quite simple: without Germany, U.S. drones would not fly.”
He explained, “I am here to ask that the German people and Parliament be told the full extent of what is happening in their country, and that the German government stop Ramstein being used to help the U.S.’s illegal and devastating drone war in my country.”
German media outlets documented last year that Ramstein plays a key role in covert U.S. drone wars. According to Reprieve, Ramstein “is the crucial connector for all data transfer between the US and Yemeni air space. The data—which enables the pilots in the US to operate the drones in real time—is transferred via fiber optic cable from the U.S. to Germany and the Air Base Ramstein. From there the data is transmitted through a satellite-relay-station to the drone which is started by technicians at the US military base in Djibouti.”
Germany’s hosting of such sites has been controversial within the country. As journalists John Goetz, Hans Leyendecker, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer wrote for the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung last year, a “war being waged from German soil” is “legally problematic to say the least. And what about the fact that plans for executions are hatched in Germany—an act that is prohibited under German law?”
Jaber has been an active campaigner within Yemen, as well as the U.S., against covert drone strikes, which continue to take civilian lives in the country. He now seeks to hold Germany accountable for its role in the U.S. drone war, which in August 2012 killed his brother-in-law Salim, a local imam, and his nephew Waleed, a police officer. Jaber, an engineer for the Yemen’s Environmental Protection Agency, is demanding that the German government immediately prohibit use of Ramstein for drone strikes and acknowledge its culpability in unlawful civilian deaths.
“The U.S.’s covert drone war has killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, in countries with which we are not at war,” said Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve. “Europe cannot hide behind the US: by allowing the use of bases, personnel or technology, we are complicit in this drone war. If European governments withdrew their support, people like Faisal and his children would have a better chance for a future without this paralyzing threat from the skies.”
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