Hawija bombing victims take their case to court in The Hague

A Dutch courtroom. Photo: Odi Busman

The Hague district court will on Tuesday begin hearings in a case against the Dutch state brought by 11 Iraqi civilians for injuries they and their families suffered in an air strike on a car bomb factory in the town of Hawija in 2015.

The 11, including the mayor of Hawija, want the Netherlands to be held liable for the airstrike and to seek reparations from the Dutch government, while highlighting the impact of aerial warfare on civilian populations, the Nuhanovic Foundation, which is backing the case, said in a statement. 

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said last year the Dutch military had taken an unacceptable risk in targeting the factory, which was located in a densely populated area.

Two Dutch F-16s bombed the factory where car bombs were made for Islamic State as part of the efforts against the ISIS movement. The airstrike, however, caused a large secondary explosion which destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed a large number of civilians.

The Dutch government has promised to spend €4 billion in the area to compensate for the loss of homes, electricity and water supplies, but has denied liability for the attack.

 An investigation by NOS and NRC three years ago found that military leaders decided to go ahead with the bombing even though they knew that there was a risk of collateral damage. An American assessment said the attack would bring only a limited or ‘moderately negative’ military advantage.

The case is the first time a court will comment on the legality of the airstrikes conducted by the international anti-ISIS coalition. 

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