Germany's highest court on Wednesday ruled that the German government violated the constitution by deploying German troops in reconnaissance flights over Turkey ahead of the Iraq war in 2003.
The Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court said in a statement that the 2003 deployment of German troops should have had prior approval by the parliament as German soldiers could have been drawn into an armed conflict.
Under the German constitution, all overseas armed deployments of German troops require parliamentary approval.
At Turkey's request, Germany sent soldiers to man NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes to conduct reconnaissance operations in Turkish airspace shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
The Social Democrat-led government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who opposed the U.S.-led Iraq war, allowed German air forces to participate in a February-April 2003 mission to protect Turkish air space.
The former government said the mission was a routine NATO operation of purely defensive nature and therefore did not need parliamentary endorsement. The decision, however, has been challenged by the opposition Free Democratic Party.
According to German media, the new court ruling is unlikely to have legal consequences for former government members, but could limit the flexibility of German governments in future military deployment.