Judges want more information in Hawija bombing case

A Dutch courtroom. Photo: Odi Busman

Judges at the district court of The Hague ordered the Dutch government to hand over more information about a 2015 bombing in Iraq that killed more than 70 people as part of an ongoing civil case brought by victims and their families.

The court was not satisfied with arguments from the state in October that the military had taken sufficient precautions against civilian loss of life when two Dutch F-16s bombed the factory where car bombs were made for Islamic State.

Eleven Iraqis, 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.

“It’s important for them to know what happened,” lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said after the decision was announced.

The airstrike caused a large secondary explosion which destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed a large number of civilians, many whom were refugees fleeing fighting in other parts of the country. 

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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