The Intercept & Pulitzer Center: No Accountability – How a rare effort to compensate Iraqi airstrike victims failed

This report by the news organisation Intercept and The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting unpacks the aftermath of the Dutch airstrike on an ISIS facility in the Iraqi town of Hawija in June 2015. The target -a car-bomb factory- stood in the midst of a crowded neighbourhood. The assault was coordinated by the United States (US)-led coalition fighting ISIS and was planned by the US military. Due to unforeseen secondary explosions at least 85 people were killed, but the actual number is likely much higher. Almost eight years later survivors still face physical and mental injuries that require expensive treatment they cannot receive in Iraq.

For more than four years, the Dutch government denied its involvement in the bombing until finally Dutch journalists brought the issue to light. Following pressure from the Dutch members of parliament and members of the public the Dutch Ministry of Defense decided to provide a fund of 4.4 million euros to Hawija as a “voluntary contribution” avoiding legal liability and accountability. The money was divided between the United Nations Development Fund and the International Organization for Migration to invest in projects beneficial to the Hawija community, including the restoration of electricity and water supplies, economic activities and job opportunities. The report points out that the people affected hardly profited from the money, if at all. As a result almost eight years after the event Hawija is still deeply scarred.

The United States has not offered an apology or individual compensation. The only legal way for civilians to pursue compensation in the US has been through the Foreign Claims Act. But this law excludes compensation for death or injury during combat, leaving the victims of Hawija with no legal route to pursue compensation from the US.