Victims ask Dutch court to rule 2015 Iraq air strike was unlawful

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -A lawyer for 25 victims of a Dutch air strike against an alleged Islamic State bomb factory in northern Iraq in 2015, which killed about 70 people, told a court in the Netherlands on Tuesday that the bombing was unlawful.

The victims, a handful of whom had travelled to the district court in The Hague from Iraq, launched the civil case in the Netherlands in the hope of being awarded damages for an unlawful act.

“I ask your court and the Dutch state and even the Dutch people to give us justice and listen to us,” Abdallah Rashid Salih, who lost seven family members, told the court.

He wept as he held up pictures of the children he lost and recounted his last moments with his dying daughter.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the Dutch state did not properly take into account the possibility of civilian casualties during an air strike against the suspected Islamic State bomb factory in Hawija, near the city of Kirkuk, in 2015.

“The state had given up on distinguishing between the bomb factory on the one hand and civilians and civilian targets on the other,” Zegveld said, saying that the state should have known that many people, mainly refugees, were living and working in the area.

The Dutch military says the area was an industrial complex and they did not expect civilians to be present in large numbers.

A lawyer for the Dutch state told the court that the Netherlands could not be held accountable for damages over the attack.

“The strike was not prohibited by international humanitarian law and was not unlawful,” lawyer Wemmeke Wisman said.

The air strike on Hawija killed around 70 people, including civilians and Islamic State fighters, according to the Dutch Defence Ministry.

The mission was one of approximately 2,100 raids carried out over Iraq and Syria by Dutch F-16s as part of the anti-IS coalition between 2014 and 2018.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alison Williams)