Dutch gov't advised to apologize for bombing Iraqi city, 85 civilian deaths
The Dutch government should apologize to the people of Hawija for bombing the Iraqi city in 2015. The lack of an apology contributes to "an anti-Western sentiment" that could "be a breeding ground for the next terrorist organization" in that area.
Peace organization PAX, Utrecht University, and the Iraqi non-governmental organization (NGO) Al-Ghad made this recommendation and observation after research in the city. The researchers discussed the Dutch bombardment, in which a munitions factory was hit and many dozens of people were killed, with 119 victims and 40 "key figures," including the mayor of the city.
The attack still has a huge impact seven years later, the researchers concluded. "Most of the interviewees feel let down by the Netherlands, partly because the compensation amount of 4.4 million euros that the Netherlands promised for reconstruction has not yet led to concrete reconstruction that meets the needs of the victims," the organizations said.
Based on the investigation, the researchers conclude that the attack targeting Islamic State (ISIS) resulted in over 85 civilian deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. The US estimates previously assumed 70 civilians were killed. The victims and key figures reported damage to 1,200 businesses and shops and 6,000 homes.
Because ISIS was in power for two years after the attack, people had little or no access to medical help, clean water, and electricity, and they were barely able to flee, the researchers said. "This has long-lasting effects. Think of disability or psychological trauma, economic damage due to the loss of a breadwinner, displacement, an increase in child labor, and poor access to education."
The researchers not only recommend that the Netherlands make an apology but also compensate for the damage suffered by individual citizens and the community. They also call for "lessons to be learned" when it comes to "warfare in populated areas where rebels are in power." They think there should be a political debate about this.
The Dutch air raid was part of an international coalition's actions led by the United States. There were more explosives than expected in the ISIS ammunition storage, resulting in a much more powerful explosion than estimated. It was only revealed in 2020 that many civilians were killed in the bombardment by Dutch F-16s. That revelation caused many problems for the then Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld.
On January 1 last year, an independent committee of inquiry led by former Minister Winnie Sordrager launched an investigation into the use of weapons in Hawija. The research by Al-Ghad, PAX, and Utrecht University started earlier, and the findings are now also available to the Sorgdrager committee.
Reporting by ANP.