A court in the Netherlands orders the country to compensate the families of the 20 victims killed in the airstrike.
A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a 2007 bombing of a residential complex in Afghanistan by Dutch troops was unlawful and has ordered the country to pay compensation to the families of the victims.
The court in The Hague ruled on Wednesday that the nightly attack that killed about 20 civilians was in violation of international humanitarian law.
On June 17, 2007, Dutch F-16 fighter jets dropped 28 guided bombs in the central Afghan province of Uruzgan. Eighteen of them landed in walled areas near the strategic city of Chora.
Dutch troops were part of the United States-led coalition that intervened in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the deadly suicide hijackings of passenger jets on 9/11 in 2001. Afghan Taliban rulers were accused of harboring al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the attacks in the US.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense had asked prosecutors to investigate the Uruzgan bombing almost two years ago after a report by a war veteran cast doubt on its legitimacy.
The ministry had argued that the buildings were used by Taliban fighters when the army attacked the compound. The court ruled otherwise on Wednesday.
“The Netherlands was responsible for the shelling of the houses,” it said in a statement. “It was known that these houses were inhabited by civilians. The state argued that the Taliban used the houses for military purposes… and thus that the bombing was not illegal.”
“But the court rules that the State has not made it sufficiently clear on the basis of which it came to the conclusion that these houses were used by the Taliban; … therefore the bombing is illegal,” it ruled.
The court sided with four survivors of the attack who had brought civil proceedings 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 plaintiffs, court documents said.
Lawyers for the Dutch government argued that the Taliban used the compound for military purposes and that, although civilians lived there, the attack was justified.
But judges said there had been no firing at the compound for at least 15 hours before the bombing.
“The most recent information was already 15 hours old,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, told AFP news agency.
“The intelligence is not such that you could say, ‘Well, yes, please, go ahead with seven bombs,'” the lawyer said.
Judges also ruled on Wednesday that victims should be compensated, but that the amounts will be determined at a later stage.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense said it would study the ruling.