Writ of Summons – Hawija victims vs The Netherlands

In the night of June 2nd and 3rd 2015, two Dutch fighter aircrafts bombed an ISIS weapon storage facility in the Iraqi city of Hawija. The strike, and the massive secondary blasts that followed, caused at least 70 civilian deaths and damaged civilian objects such as homes, schools, mosques and infrastructure. 11 victims of the bombardment have summoned the Dutch state to appear before the Dutch District Court of The Hague on 9th March 2022. They claim that under the Dutch Civil Code (Article 6:162) the bombardment constitutes an unlawful act vis-à-vis them and seek compensation for their material and immaterial damages.

Violation of International Humanitarian Law

The plaintiffs claim that the Dutch State breached the principle of proportionality, a corner stone principle of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), when preparing for and executing the bombardment. The Dutch state knew or should have known that the airstrike would or could cause a huge number of civilian casualties, disproportional to the limited military advantage that would result from eliminating the IS target. Against this background, the writ analyses the targeting process that includes the digital Collateral Damage Estimation (CDE). The conclusion is that although some variables in the CDE model were adjusted to avoid civilian deaths (for instance by using smaller bombs) the Dutch state knew that the tool excludes secondary explosions from its calculations and the risk of such explosions remained. Yet the Dutch state did not refrain from carrying out the air strike.

The Dutch also violated their obligation under IHL to take precautionary measures to spare the civilian population and civilian objects. For example, the Dutch military did not warn the residents of Hawija about the imminent air strike.

Violation of Article 2 ECHR

The plaintiffs further purport that the Dutch state also infringed upon Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to adequately and independently investigate the deaths of civilians caused by the bombardment. The Dutch Ministry of Defence’s (DoD) investigations into the incident were inadequate since the DoD was denied access to relevant information relating to the targeting process. Neither was the investigation independent since the DoD itself was responsible for carrying out the air strike.

More about this case: Statement of Claim against the Dutch State (Ministry of Defence) of April 2020.