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European court rejects case vs Germany over Afghan airstrike
Court Watch | 2021/02/16 18:50
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a complaint against Germany’s refusal to prosecute an officer who ordered the deadly bombing in 2009 of two fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan.

Scores of people died when U.S. Air Force jets bombed the tankers hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz. The strike was ordered by the commander of the German base in Kunduz, Col. Georg Klein, who feared insurgents could use the trucks to carry out attacks.

Contrary to the intelligence Klein based his decision on, most of those swarming the trucks were local civilians invited by the Taliban to siphon fuel from the vehicles after they had become stuck in a riverbed.

An Afghan man who lost two sons aged 8 and 12 in the airstrike, Abdul Hanan, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after German authorities declined to prosecute Klein. He alleged that Germany failed to conduct an effective investigation and that no “effective domestic remedy” to that had been available in Germany.

The Strasbourg, France-based court rejected the complaints. It found that German federal prosecutors were “able to rely on a considerable amount of material concerning the circumstances and the impact of the airstrike.”

It also noted that courts including Germany’s highest, the Federal Constitutional Court, rejected cases by Hanan. And it added that a parliamentary commission of inquiry “had ensured a high level of public scrutiny of the case.”

Wolfgang Kaleck, the head of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights who provided legal support to Hanan, said the verdict was a disappointment for the plaintiff and his fellow villagers, but noted that judges had made clear that governments have a duty to at least investigate such cases.

“The bombardment and the dozens of civilian deaths didn’t result in a rebuke, there’s no resumption of the criminal case,” he told reporters after the court announced its decision. “On the other hand it will be very important internationally, also in future, that the European Convention on Human Rights applies,” Kaleck said. “That’s to say, those who conduct such military operations have to legally answer for them afterward, hopefully to a greater extent than in the Kunduz case.”

A separate legal effort to force Germany to pay more compensation than the $5,000 it has so far given families for each victim was rejected last year by the Federal Constitutional Court. This civil case can still be appealed in Strasbourg.


Man who broke ankle at farm obstacle course wins appeal
Court Issues | 2021/02/13 02:50
A man who broke an ankle on an obstacle course at a pumpkin patch will get his foot inside a courthouse again.

A judge wrongly dismissed Tarek Hamade’s lawsuit against DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Thursday.

Hamade fractured an ankle while running across tires that were part of an obstacle course known as “Tough Farmer.” He said he was injured while stepping on a tire that was very soft at the fall attraction near Belleville.

DeBuck’s argued that the spongy tire was an open and obvious risk, a key legal standard under Michigan liability law.

“It’s an obstacle course. It’s meant to be difficult to traverse,” attorney Drew Broaddus said at a Feb. 3 hearing.

But the appeals court said the tire’s condition was not obvious.

“If they’d called it the ‘spongy tire challenge’ we might have a different case. But that’s not what it was presented as,” Judge Michael Gadola said.

Hamade’s lawsuit now returns to Wayne County Circuit Court.




Polish court rules record compensation for wrongful jailing
Court Issues | 2021/02/10 21:23
A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn’t commit.

Tomasz Komenda’s case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.

Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.

As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn’t have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn’t involved.

Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.

A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.

Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case.  Komenda’s story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”


Maine ban on religious tuition funding goes to Supreme Court
Topics | 2021/02/05 23:17
Three families demanding that the state pay tuition for religious schools are taking their appeal to a U.S. Supreme Court that looks much different than when the lawsuit was filed more than two years ago.

The conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling in a Montana case make attorneys for the Maine families more optimistic that they'll prevail in changing the state's stance, which dates to 1980. The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the appeal, filed Thursday.

“The court should grant this case and resolve this issue once and for all,” said the families' attorney, Michael Bindas, from the Institute for Justice.

The Maine Department of Education currently allows families who reside in towns without their own public schools to receive tuition to attend a public or private school of their choice. But religious schools are excluded.

There have been several lawsuits over the years, but the courts always have sided with the state, which contends using taxpayer dollars to fund religious education violates the separation of church and state.

The latest lawsuit targeting Maine's tuition program was filed in August 2018 after the Supreme Court held that a Missouri program was wrong in denying a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing.


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