Drone victims sue German government for facilitating strikes in Yemen

October 15, 2014

A Yemeni man, whose nephew and brother-in-law were killed in a 2012 drone strike, has travelled to Germany to sue the government for facilitating drone strikes of the sort in which his relatives died.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an engineer for the Yemeni environmental protection agency, lost his brother-in-law Salim, a local imam known for preaching against al-Qaeda, and his nephew Waleed, a policeman, in a drone strike in August 2012. Mr bin Ali Jaber has filed litigation asking the German government to stop the use of Ramstein Air Base in assisting the US’ covert drones programme. Mr bin Ali Jaber is also asking that the German government acknowledge that allowing the US to use Ramstein to facilitate drone strikes in Yemen – a country with which the US is not at war – is unlawful.

Ramstein Air Base, in South West Germany, 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 fibre optic cable from the US 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.

Mr bin Ali Jaber is represented in the litigation, which was filed today, by international human rights NGO Reprieve and the European Centre for Constitutional Human Rights (ECCHR).

Faisal bin Ali Jaber, said:

“Were it not for the help of Germany and Ramstein, men like my brother-in-law and nephew might still be alive today. It is quite simple: without Germany, US drones would not fly. 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 US’ illegal and devastating drone war in my country.”

Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said:

“The US’ covert drone war has killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, in countries with which we are not at war.  Without the help of the British and German governments these deaths would never have been possible. 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.”

Andreas Schueller, head of the international crimes and accountability programme at ECCHR, said:

“Ramstein is crucial for US drone warfare. Germany has to bring it to an end – if not it is complicit in the death of civilians. The German government must no longer hide behind status-of-forces agreements and admit its responsibility for civilian deaths caused by US drone warfare.”