Minister survives no confidence vote over Iraq bombing deaths

Ank Bijleveld during the debate. Photo: Peter Hilz / HH
Ank Bijleveld during the debate. Photo: Peter Hilz / HH

Defense minister Ank Bijleveld survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Tuesday after apologising to MPs for the fact they had not been told a Dutch bomb had led to 70 civilian deaths in Iraq in 2015.

Bijleveld’s predecessor Jeanine Hennis had told MPs that Dutch jets were not involved in the attack on a bomb factory which lead to the deaths, and that ‘should not have been the case’, the minister said.

The no-confidence vote was backed by almost the entire opposition, apart from the fundamentalist Christian party SGP.

Dutch F16s were used in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2016 and in 2018 as part of the international coalition against IS. In total they were involved with 2,100 bombing raids.

Dutch military operations are extremely sensitive to the possibility of civilian casualties since the Srebrenica massacre in 1998, and all involvement in military missions has to be cleared by parliament.

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