In a first of its kind case in the Netherlands, a district court in The Hague ruled on Wednesday, November 23, that a 2007 Dutch airstrike in the town of Chora in Afghanistan, which reportedly killed 20 Afghan civilians, was illegal. The court also ordered the government to provide financial compensation to the victims, AP reported.
The court ruled that the early morning airstrikes carried out by the Dutch military on June 17, 2007, using helicopters and fighter jets (F-16s) on civilian houses were a violation of international humanitarian law. The court observed that the attacks were carried out without enough information and adequate attempts to establish the presence of combatants.
The judgement noted that the Dutch military fired at least 28 bombs on the civilian compound in Chora in the Uruzgan province in central Afghan, killing civilians and their animals and destroying their homes.
The verdict came after four survivors of the bombing filed a civil suit against the Dutch state. The names of the petitioners were not revealed in the court document. However, the document notes that at least seven family members of one of the complainants were among those killed in the airstrikes.
The Dutch military had claimed that the compound was used by the Taliban. However, the court found that it was a civilian compound. The court also questioned the Dutch military’s claims that they had information about the compound being used by the Taliban, saying that the information was insufficient and old as there were no firing from the location for hours before the attack.
War crimes in Afghanistan
Dutch forces were part of the US-led international military invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which lasted until August last year. The US had held Afghanistan’s then government led by the Taliban responsible for the September 11 attacks. The US and its NATO allies led an international coalition of forces called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to invade the country. The ISAF has been accused of being responsible for thousands of civilian casualties amounting to war crimes in Afghanistan.
However, only in a handful of cases have the US and some of its allies admitted to killing innocent civilians and ordered compensation, which is often found to be inaccurate and inadequate. Despite evidence, the US and its NATO allies refuse to take action against their personnel responsible for the war crimes, and in most the cases refuse to take any responsibility.
According to the AP report, there were various reports of civilians being killed in military operations carried out by the US-led international forces in Chora at the time. The report claims that during the three days of fighting between the ISAF and Taliban in the town in June 2007, at least 250 people were killed, of whom between 50 and 80 were civilians. The ISAF countries have refused to acknowledge the civilian deaths or take action against the personnel responsible for those killings.
Investigations into the bombings in Chora were only started in the Netherlands two years back after a former military person raised questions about the operation’s legitimacy in a report, Al-Jazeera reported.