Judges at The Hague district court on Tuesday heard tearful testimony from victims and relatives, as they described the horrors of the massive explosion in Hawaji, Iraq when the Dutch military bombed an IS-controlled industrial terrain in 2015.
The 11 victims, including the mayor of Hawija, want the Netherlands to be held liable for the airstrike, which killed at least 85 people, and said the government should pay reparations.
“All of the doors and the windows broke,” Kurdi Fahdil Mutlak said, in describing the June evening as his wife sat next to him in court, crying. The explosion killed their daughter.
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 that destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed a large number of civilians.
Lawyers for the Dutch state said they had no way of knowing the attack would have such a large knock-on effect. “It was a total surprise,” Wemmeke Wisman, who is representing the Dutch authorities, said.
It wasn’t initially clear who had carried out the attack. Reporting by the NRC and broadcaster NOS in 2019 confirmed that civilians were killed and it was widely known people had taken up refuge near the factory after being displaced by the fighting.
Eventually, the defense ministry confirmed Dutch F16s had carried out the attack.
Military leaders at the time were aware that there was a likelihood that civilians would be killed and an assessment by the American military found that the bombing would bring only a limited or ‘moderately negative’ military advantage.
The Dutch government has promised to spend €4 billion in the area to compensate for the loss of homes, electricity and water supplies, but that money would not go to victims.
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