COLOGNE, Germany — A German court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit against the government brought by three Yemeni men who lost two relatives in a U.S. drone strike.

The men, who were unable to leave Yemen to attend the hearing, alleged in their suit that the German government let the United States use an air base in southern Germany to relay flight control data for lethal drone strikes, including the 2012 attack in which their relatives were killed.

The men argued that this contravened Germany's constitutional obligation to protect the lives of individuals even in cases of non-Germans living outside Germany when a threat emanated from within the country.

The Cologne administrative court accepted the argument that Germany had an obligation to protect lives, but noted that the government had informed the U.S. that the Ramstein air base had to act in accordance with German and international laws, and that the U.S. had agreed.

Beyond such steps, because of treaty obligations, "German authorities have very limited influence on foreign troops' use of the property," the court said.

In addition, it said the government also had wide leeway in fulfilling its constitutional obligations, while also balancing their actions with "foreign and defense policy interests."

The men, who are being represented by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and rights group Reprieve, had wanted Germany to accept legal and political responsibility for the strikes and stop the U.S. from using the Ramstein base.

The lead plaintiff, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana'a, said in a statement distributed by the groups that they would appeal the ruling.

"This is just the beginning of our efforts and I will continue to place my faith in the justice system and the rule of law to find a peaceful and sustainable way to keep myself and my family safe," he said.

David Rising reported from Berlin. Frank Jordans contributed to this story.

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