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The Prosecutor v. Colonel Georg Klein

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Decision title Judgment
Decision date 11 December 2013
  • The Prosecutor
  • Georg Klein
Other names
  • NATO bombing in Kunduz
  • Fuel tanker bombing case
  • Kunduz airstrike
Categories War crimes
Keywords war crimes, command responsibility, proportionality
Other countries involved
  • Germany
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Procedural history

During operations in Afghanistan, German Colonel Georg Klein ordered a NATO air strike on two stranded oil tanks near Kunduz on 4 September 2009. The tanks had previously been stolen by the Taliban. During the strike, at least 91 people - mostly civilians who had quickly started siphoning the free fuel out of the tankers - were killed.

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Related developments

The German government announced on 6 August 2010 that it would pay $5,000 to the familis to more than hundred identified victims as ex gratia payments (thus not implicitly accepting liability). In 2011, the Higher Regional Court of Dusseldorf stopped an attempt by a father who had lost two sons during the air-strike to push again for criminal proceedings against Klein.

However, in 2013 it was decided that a court in Bonn, Germany, should review the case nevertheless, taking into consideration increasing controversy. In December 2013, the court ruled that there was no evidence that Colonel Klein had violated any regulation or rule of (international) law, emphasising that one should not judge the Colonel on the situation in hindsight, but on the basis of what was and could have been known at the moment the air strike was ordered.

On 11 December 2013, a German court rejected claims of two of the victims' families for respectively $40,000 and $50,000 compensation.

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Court's holding and analysis

The German federal prosecutor had closed the case against Klein in April 2010 and decided that no criminal proceedings would be initiated against Colonel Klein and Hauptfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) Wilhelm. According to the prosecution's findings, neither the German penal code nor international law had been violated.

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Additional materials