Dutch prosecutors asked to check whether Dutch soldiers killed Afghan civilians

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives for the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium

The Dutch Defence Ministry said on Wednesday it had asked prosecutors to look into a report by a war veteran that Dutch soldiers fired at and may have killed civilians in the Afghan province of Uruzgan in 2007.

The ministry responded to a report by the Dutch veteran, who said he had been ordered to fire heavy artillery at a cluster of houses in the Chora valley because his superiors suspected a Taliban presence there.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw, published on Wednesday, the veteran said the action was based only on intercepted radio communications and that the people who were fired on during the attack did not shoot back.

This would appear to be in violation of the Dutch army’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan, under which force can be used only in self-defence.

The ministry said in a statement that it took the report very seriously and was looking into every known violent incident in Uruzgan at the time. It also said it was considering improvements in the ways veterans can report incidents.

The investigation follows a report published in Australia last month which found Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos forcing junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last month he had seen no indication that Dutch soldiers had also committed such crimes, but the Defence Ministry has started an investigation similar to the one in Australia to check this.

Dutch prosecutors could not be reached for comment on Wednesday morning.

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