Higher collateral damage was expected in fatal Dutch bombing in Iraq: report

Enduring Freedom
Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon over Afghanistan, May 28, 2008. (Photo: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Wikimedia)Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon over Afghanistan, May 28, 2008. (Photo: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Wikimedia)

Before Dutch F-16s bombarded an ammunitions factory in Hawija, Iraq, it was known that "the expected collateral damage could be greater" than emerged from calculations, NOS and NRC report based on internal documents received from the Ministry of Defense through the Open Government Act. At least 70 civilians were killed in that bombing in 2015.

The collateral damages were calculated by American software Collateral Damage Estimation (CDE). The protocol for the anti-ISIS coalition in 2015 was that if any civilian casualties were expected, an attack would not be carried out. The CDE calculated zero civilian casualties for Hawija. 

But the CDE was unable to calculate the impact of a second blast, which can arise when bombing a bomb or ammunitions factory like in Hawija. So an estimation was made based on previous attacks on bomb factories. It was concluded that the expected collateral damage could be greater than the calculations showed, but the damage would only be material, according to an investigation conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Defense into the incident.

The estimations turned out to be wrong. Over 400 buildings were damaged and at least 70 civilians were killed.

The Ministry of Defense attributes the massive collateral damage to more ammunition being in the factory than was known beforehand. The procedure worked properly, the Ministry concluded, according to NOS. 

In November last year, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the Tweede Kamer that parliamentarians could not immediately be informed of the civilian casualties - which only came to light after investigation by NOS and NRC last year - because a "protocol" did not allow it at the time for the safety of the pilots. But according to NOS, documents received relating to the government's transparency policy show no such protocol.

The only protocol related to this was "the procedure minimize/report civilian casualties", which contains the agreements made by the Ministries involved at the start of the anti-ISIS mission in 2014. The agreement on civilian deaths therein states: "For each case (...) it is considered whether the Tweede Kamer must be informed". There is no mention of pilots or agreements made with pilots, according to NOS.