Lawyers for Afghans say Dutch troops failed to spare civilians

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Lawyers acting for Afghans wounded by bombardment by Dutch troops in 2007 on Monday told a Dutch district court that the soldiers had failed to distinguish between military and civilian targets and used disproportionate force.

The four Afghans and relatives of a fifth who has since died are suing the Dutch state in civil court for compensation for what they say are war crimes in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.

“The (Dutch) state has failed in upholding the fundamental distinction between military and civilian targets,” lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told Dutch judges in the first hearing of the case. The attacks “fit the picture that the life of an Afghan is not worth much to us”, the lawyer said.

Lawyers for the Dutch state dismissed the plaintiffs complaints that civilians were not properly warned that an attack was imminent, and that the soldiers were using outdated intelligence.

“The serious reproaches plaintiffs make towards the Dutch state are unfounded,” Karlijn Teuben, a lawyer for the Dutch state, told judges.

Dutch troops were stationed in the Afghan province from 2006 to 2010 as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In June 2007, a battle over the Chora valley erupted after a Taliban offensive.

According to the Dutch ministry of Defence, some 250 people were killed in the ensuing days of battle, including a Dutch soldier and 50-80 Afghan civilians.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Peter Graff