Tuesday 21 March 2023

Dutch set up independent inquiry into 2015 Hawija bombing

An F-16 in action above Iraq. Photo: US Airforce

The cabinet is setting up an independent inquiry into the Dutch-led bombing raid on the Iraqi town of Hawija in 2015, which resulted in some 70 civilian deaths.

In addition, the Netherlands will compensate locals for the damage by funding the rebuilding of homes, restoring water and electricity services and creating jobs, defence minister Ank Bijleveld told MPs in a briefing.

The compensation is being given voluntarily and the Netherlands will not give financial compensation to individuals, Bijleveld said. This, she said, is because the target – an IS bomb factory – was legitimate. The bomb factory contained more explosives than thought and that led to an escalation in the damage, the minister said.

‘The Netherlands is responsible but not liable for the consequences of the attack,’ the minister said. There is, therefore, no reason to pay out individual compensation.

The Dutch state was recently ordered to pay damages to the relatives of victims of another bombing rate in Mosul in June 2015. In that case, Bijleveld said, the target transpired not to be legitimate, and the bomb fell on a private home.

Former minister Winnie Sorgdrager will lead the inquiry into the mission.

Safety board

The Dutch safety board OVV said earlier this year it will not carry out an investigation into the Dutch role in the air bombing of Hawija, despite MPs’ calls for an inquiry.

OVV chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in June that the OVV’s statutes do not allow it to research ‘combat operations’ and no exception to this can be made, despite the minister’s request.

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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