Netherlands forces killed 20 Afghans unlawfully, Dutch court rules

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a deadly bombing of a residential compound in Afghanistan by Dutch forces in 2007 was unlawful, and has ordered the country to pay compensation to the victims’ families.

The District Court of The Hague on Wednesday found that the nighttime attack that killed about 20 civilians violated international humanitarian law.

On June 17, 2007, Dutch F-16 fighter jets dropped 28 bombs in the central Afghan province of Uruzgan. Eighteen of them landed on walled compounds near the town of Chora.

The Dutch Ministry of Defence had asked prosecutors almost two years ago to look into the Uruzgan bombing after a report by a war veteran questioned its legitimacy.

The ministry had argued the buildings were being used by Taliban fighters when the military hit the compound. The court on Wednesday found otherwise.

“The Netherlands was responsible for the shelling of the houses,” it said in a statement. “It was known these houses were inhabited by civilians. The State invoked the fact the Taliban used the houses for military purposes… and thus that the bombing was not unlawful.”

“But the court rules that the State hasn’t sufficiently made clear on what basis it came to the conclusion that these houses were being used by the Taliban; … therefore, the bombing is illegal,” it ruled.

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The court sided with four survivors of the attack who brought a civil suit against the Dutch state for compensation. They were not named in court documents.

The victims included the wife, two daughters, three sons and a daughter-in-law of one of the claimants, court papers said.

Wednesday that victims should be compensated but amounts would be determined at a later stage.

The Dutch defence ministry said it would study the verdict.

Task Force Uruzgan (TFU) was the Netherlands’ contribution to NATO’s occupation force in Afghanistan.

The Dutch led one of the four Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the southern region of the country. Mandated by the Dutch Parliament in February 2006, between 1,200 to 1,400 Dutch military were tasked to maintain order in Uruzgan Province through to July 2010.

They were also to develop political and economic infrastructure and to train the Afghan National Police.

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