Victims of Afghan raid file suit against Germany

Updated 29 December 2012
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Victims of Afghan raid file suit against Germany

BERLIN: Families of victims of an air strike in Afghanistan that killed more than 90 people in 2009 have filed a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against Germany, a lawyer said Friday.
Karim Popal, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said 10 class action lawsuits were claiming 3.3 million euros ($4.4 million) in damages from the German government.
“Many orphans and widows lost their providers due to this barbaric war crime, and many mothers their young children,” Popal said in a statement.
“Nearly all the survivors are traumatized and are not receiving psychological treatment.”
In response to a sharp rise in attacks on foreign forces, a German commander on September 4, 2009 called in a raid near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. The strike claimed 91 victims according to the German government and up to 142 people including dozens of civilians according to Afghan officials.
A spokesman for the regional court in the western city of Bonn told AFP that it had received 10 complaints claiming damages from the German government but declined to provide further details.
Popal had already filed class-action lawsuits in 2011 demanding $33,000 per victim and said the plaintiffs were still awaiting a ruling from the same court in Bonn.
The air strike prompted public outrage just weeks before a German general election, forcing the defense minister at the time to resign and putting Chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure to clearly define her Afghan policy.
The defense ministry approved compensation in 2010 of $5,000 per family. A ministry spokesman said Friday that 90 families had received payouts to date.
Popal told AFP his firm was representing a total of 426 people from 79 families in litigation against the German government.
Germany currently has around 4,800 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 11 min 29 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.