A Dutch court orders the country to compensate the families of the 20 victims killed in the airstrike.
A Dutch court ruled the 2007 bombing of a residential complex in Afghanistan by Dutch forces illegal and ordered the country to pay compensation to the families of the victims.
The Hague District Court ruled on Wednesday that the nighttime attack that killed around 20 civilians violated 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 on fortified compounds near the strategic town of Chora.
Dutch forces were part of the US-led coalition that intervened in Afghanistan following the deadly September 11, 2001 suicide hijackings of passenger planes. Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have been accused of harboring al-Qaeda, responsible for the attacks in the United States.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense nearly two years ago asked prosecutors to investigate the Uruzgan bombing after a report by a war veteran cast doubt on its legitimacy.
The ministry had argued that the buildings were being used by Taliban fighters when the army struck the compound. The court on Wednesday ruled otherwise.
“The Netherlands was responsible for the bombing of houses,” he said in a statement. “We knew that these houses were inhabited by civilians. The state argued that the Taliban were using the houses for military purposes… and therefore the bombing was not illegal.
“But the court finds that the state did not sufficiently specify on what basis it came to the conclusion that these houses were used by the Taliban; … therefore, the bombing is unlawful,” he ruled.
The court sided with four survivors of the attack who filed a civil suit 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, 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 justified.
But judges said there had been no shooting around the compound for at least 15 hours before the shelling.
“The most recent information was already from 3 p.m.,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told the AFP news agency.
“The intelligence is not of a nature that you could say, ‘Well, yes please go ahead with seven bombs,'” the lawyer said.
The judges also ruled on Wednesday that the victims should be compensated, but the amounts would be determined later.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense said it would investigate the verdict.