A deadly Dutch air strike on a civilian compound in Afghanistan in 2007 was unlawful, a court in the Netherlands ruled on Wednesday 23 November, ordering the country to compensate the victims’ families.
Dutch forces had not properly distinguished between military and civilian targets, the court ruled. It said:
The court concludes that the State has not sufficiently substantiated that at the time… there was sufficient information in which a reasonable commander could designate it as a military target.
The victims included the wife, two daughters, three sons and a daughter-in-law of one of the claimants.
Dutch government lawyers claimed the Taliban used the compound for military purposes and although civilians lived there, the attack was indeed justified. However, judges said there had been no firing around the stricken compound for at least 15 hours before the bombing.
The claimants’ lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, told Agence France-Presse (AFP):
The most recent information was already 15 hours old.
The intelligence is not of a nature in which one could say, ‘Well, yes please, go ahead with seven bombs.
Judges also ruled that the victims should be compensated, but that exact amounts would be determined at a later stage.
The ruling comes as Human Rights Watch (HRW) continues its campaign for an inquiry into potential human rights violations “by all sides” in Afghanistan. HRW have said:
Human Rights Watch research found numerous violations of international humanitarian law by Afghan government forces, and has documented torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the United States military and CIA since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
While the latest ruling about the unlawful Dutch air strike in Afghanistan will be welcome, HRW warn that the road ahead for accountability will be difficult:
A fraught security environment, in which the Taliban frequently threaten and intimidate people who speak against them, and a difficult political landscape for justice in Afghanistan highlight both the need for an ICC investigation and the problems the court may face in gathering evidence.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.