Compensation for Violations of the Laws of War – The Varvarin Case before German and International Courts

Stefan Kirchner, Katarzyna Geler-Noch


As has happened in many wars, during NATO's 1999 war against Yugoslavia innocent civilians became accidental targets. International Humanitarian Law (IHL) prohibits indiscriminate attacks, that is, attacks which do not distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians. A NATO aircraft bombed the bridge in Varvarin, resulting in the death of several civilians. Although the aircraft had not been German, family members of those who had been killed sued for compensation in German courts on the basis of Germany's NATO membership. German law includes rules on compensation for illegal activities by public authorities. In the Varvarin case, German courts have continued to find that these rules are not applicable to armed conflicts. In autumn 2013, the German Federal Constitutional Court upheld this jurisprudence. This article shows the shortcomings of this approach as well as the gaps in current International Humanitarian Law concerning compensation for victims of violations of the laws of war.

Pojmovne odrednice

Judicial review; Federal constitution; Sub-national constitution. - Constitutionality and legality; Federal law

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