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Dutch state found responsible for three Srebrenica deaths

In a groundbreaking ruling, the Dutch state has been found responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men during the bloody Srebrenica massacre of 1995 – which saw 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Serb forces.

Women from Srebrenica sit in a room covered with pictures of victims of the 1995 massacre, and watch a tv broadcast of  Mladic's court proceedings at The Hague.
Women from Srebrenica sit in a room covered with pictures of victims of the 1995 massacre, and watch a tv broadcast of Mladic's court proceedings at The Hague.
Image: Amel Emric/AP/Press Association Images

THE DUTCH STATE has been found responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered by Serb forces.

In a groundbreaking ruling, the court in The Hague concluded that “the Dutch state is responsible for the death of these men because Dutchbat [Dutch UN troops] should not have handed them over” to Serb forces.

Dutch peacekeeping troops had been in charge of the UN “safe area” at the location in the lead up to the massacre during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, however the Dutch government has always maintained that its troops were abandoned by the UN before the killings, reports Al Jazeera.

The court said in its ruling: “The Dutchbat had been witness to multiple incidents in which the Bosnian Serbs mistreated or killed male refugees outside the compound. The Dutch therefore knew that … the men were at great risk if they were to leave the compound.”

A sensitive issue in the Netherlands

The issue of Srebrenica is of one extreme sensitivity in the Netherlands – so much so that a government fell in 2002 following the publishing of a scathing official report, entitled Dossier Srebrenica, on the massacre.

However, in 2008, a court ruled that the state was not responsible for the deaths because Dutchbat troops had been operating under a UN mandate.

The Dutch government has been ordered to pay compensation to the victims’ families, which could pave the way for further claims of compensation, the BBC reports.

The case was brought by the relatives of Dutchbat employee Rizo Mustafic, and also by a former Dutchbat interpreter, Hasan Nuhanovic. Mustafic was forced to leave the safe zone has never been seen since, while Nuhanovic was permitted to stay but later found out that both his brother and father were killed in the massacre.

The ruling applies only to three men and no other decision has yet been made in relation to responsibility for the other murders.

General Ratko Mladić, the commanding general of Serb forces at the time of the Srebrenica killings, is currently on trial at The Hague for war crimes. He was arrested in May after spending 16 years at large.

Read more: Judges enter “not guilty” plea for Mladić after kicking him out of court >

Read more: Nine things to know about Ratko Mladić >

Read more: Ratko Mladić, wanted for the slaughter of 8,000 in Srebrenica, is arrested in Serbia >

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