Merkel must challenge Obama on drone-strike ‘hubs’ in Germany

Berlin, Germany (Reprieve) – Angela Merkel must use a visit by President Obama to Germany this weekend to challenge the use of US military bases in Germany for covert drone strikes, human rights organization Reprieve has said.

The US President is set to visit Germany for talks with Chancellor Merkel on Sunday (24th). His visit comes amid ongoing legal proceedings against the German government by Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Yemen who lost two relatives in a US drone strike in 2012. In May 2015, a court in Cologne heard evidence from Mr bin Ali Jaber, following revelations that Ramstein air base in Germany is used by the US to facilitate secret US drone strikes in countries like Yemen.

Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim, a preacher, and his nephew Waleed, a local police officer, when a US strike hit the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge those present to reject Al Qaeda. Mr Jaber is bringing the case against Germany – represented by international human rights organization Reprieve and its local partner the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) – for failing to stop Ramstein from being used for drone strikes that have killed civilians, and which are widely regarded to violate international law.

Image Source: Facebook.

Image Source: Facebook.

According to reports last year, the US military sees bases including Ramstein as a key part of the technical infrastructure supporting the drone programme in countries such as Yemen, where strikes have killed civilians. One budget request for the Ramstein station said that without the facility, “weapon strikes cannot be supported.” A satellite relay station situated on the base is said to control drone flight data, allowing operators sitting in the US to control drones flying over countries like Yemen and Pakistan.

Though the court ruled against Mr Jaber in the May 2015 hearing, it accepted his claim as admissible, and gave him immediate permission to appeal the decision. The judges also agreed with his assertion that it is ‘plausible’ Ramstein air base is crucial in facilitating drone strikes in Yemen. Mr Jaber’s appeal is expected to proceed to a hearing this summer.

Commenting, Johanna Hortolani, caseworker at international human rights organization Reprieve said:

“For years, it has been public knowledge that US bases in Germany, like Ramstein, are an essential hub for covert US drone strikes in countries like Yemen, where the US is not at war. These illegal attacks – such as the one that killed Faisal’s relatives – have wrought devastation on innocent families, and fanned the flames of extremism. When Angela Merkel meets with the President this weekend, she must urgently call for an end to this terrible misuse of German soil.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.