THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A local court in the Netherlands ruled on Wednesday that Dutch forces unlawfully bombed a residential complex in Afghanistan in 2007, and ordered the state to pay financial compensation to the victims.
The District Court of The Hague found the late-night attack on a compound that left some 20 civilians dead violated international humanitarian law. The court sided with four survivors of the attack who brought a civil suit against the Dutch state for compensation.
The defense ministry argued that buildings were being used by Taliban fighters when the military hit the walled compound, known as a “quala,” with munitions fired from attack helicopters and F-16s. The Dutch were part the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan at the time.
However, some 12 hours had passed from the last time the Taliban used the location as a firing position when the bombing occurred, and judges concluded that the military did not have enough information to designate the compound as a military target.
An estimated 250 Afghans, including between 50 and 80 civilians, were killed during the three days of fighting which became known as the Battle of Chora. In the days leading up to the battle, Taliban fighters had captured a number of police outposts and were advancing on a Dutch military facility.
It is the first time the Dutch state has been held liable for military action in Afghanistan and the first time a court has considered state responsibility in an aerial bombardment. The group’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, said she was happy with the outcome. “I believe it’s the right decision, but the stakes were high.” She hopes the military will be more diligent in future missions.
A spokesperson for the defense ministry said they would consider the ruling. They have three months to file an appeal. The exact amount of compensation will be determined at a later hearing.