A deadly Dutch airstrike on a civilian compound in Afghanistan in 2007 was illegal, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday, ordering the country to compensate the victims’ families.
Four Afghans, who were not named in court documents, took the Dutch state to court over the incident during fighting between international forces and the Taliban in Uruzgan province in central Afghanistan.
Dutch F-16 fighter jets in the early morning hours of June 17, 2007, dropped 28 guided bombs in the area, 18 of which landed on walls, called “kalas” near the strategic town of Chora, the court said.
Several bombs fell on one of the compounds, designated “Cala 4131,” killing at least 18 relatives of the plaintiffs, court documents said.
Dutch forces did not properly distinguish between military and civilian targets, the court ruled.
“The court concludes that the State did not sufficiently establish that at the time … there was sufficient information in which a reasonable commander could have designated him as a military target,” the report said.
The victims include the wife, two daughters, three sons and daughter-in-law of one of the plaintiffs, according to court documents.
Lawyers for the Dutch government argued that the Taliban were using the compound for military purposes and although civilians lived there, the attack was indeed justified.
But the judges said there had been no shooting around the stricken compound for at least 15 hours before the bombing.
“The last information was already 15 hours old,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Lisbeth Zegveld told AFP.
“Intelligence is not of a nature where you can say, ‘Well, yes please, go ahead with seven bombs,'” added the lawyer.
The judges also ruled on Wednesday that the victims should be compensated, but that the exact amounts would be determined at a later stage.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense said it would study the ruling.