Criminal responsibility of German soldiers in Afghanistan : the case of colonel Klein
by Constantin von der Groeben
Host item entries:
German law journal, Vol. 11, no. 5, 2010, p. 469-492
On 4 September 2009 an officer of the German Bundeswehr (German Army) in Afghanistan, Colonel Georg Klein, ordered an airstrike against two gas tanker trucks hijacked by the Taliban. In this airstrike, carried out by U.S. Air Force pilots, up to 140 people were killed, among them not only members of the Taliban but also many civilians. This raises the question of criminal responsibility of German soldiers who operate in Afghanistan. The Generalbundesanwalt (General Public Prosecutor) investigated the case and recently decided to terminate the investigations against Colonel Klein. Despite this decision not all questions are answered. I will present a more comprehensive analysis of the case, not only commenting on the decision of the Generalbundesanwalt, but also applying different factual hypotheses leading to a different legal assessment of the case. At the outset I will look back at the line of cases known as the “Road Block Cases,” and seek to explain how the criminal responsibility of German soldiers has been dealt with in the past.