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Court rules that Dutch State 'liable' for deaths of 300 Srebrenica victims

The Dutch UN peacekeepers should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victim of genocide, the court ruled.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

A COURT IN the Netherlands has ruled that the Dutch state was liable for the deaths of over 300 victims of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

Families of the victims had brought a case against the Dutch government over the 1995 killings, accusing Dutch UN peacekeepers of failing to protect the 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered by ethnic Serb troops just a few months before the end of the Bosnian war.

“The state is liable for the loss suffered by relatives of the men who were deported by the Bosnian Serbs from the Dutchbat (Dutch battalion) compound in Potocari in the afternoon of 13 July 1995,” the court said.

“Dutchbat should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victim of genocide and that it can be said with sufficient certainty that, had the Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive,” it ruled.

Dutchbat was the name for the Dutch force under the nominal control of the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia.

“By cooperating in the deportation of these men, Dutchbat acted unlawfully,” it added.

The tiny Muslim enclave was under UN protection until 11 July 1995 when it was overrun by ethnic Serb forces under the command of Ratko Mladic, who is currently on trial on genocide and war crimes charges over the war in Bosnia, including the Srebrenica slaughter.

Seeking justice for years

Mladic’s troops brushed aside the lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers in a “safe area” where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection.

In the subsequent days, almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA MILOSEVIC'S VICTIMS Fatima Hurtic, a 36-year-old Srebrenica widow, holds the only photo she has of her dead husband, Omer, at her home in Rajlovac, near Sarajevo. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Mothers of Srebrenica, representing some 6,000 widows and victims’ relatives, have been seeking justice for years for the massacre, which the UN’s highest International Court of Justice has ruled was genocide.

In April, the Dutch government said it would pay €20,000 to relatives of three Bosnian Muslim men murdered after peacekeepers expelled them from the UN compound at Srebrenica in 1995.

That move followed a Dutch court’s landmark ruling last year that the state was liable for the deaths, the first time a government had been held responsible for the actions of peacekeepers operating under a UN mandate.

Wednesday’s ruling come just days after thousands of people gathered in Srebrenica to mark the 19th anniversary of the killings.

So far, the remains of 6,066 people have been exhumed from mass graves in the Srebrenica region for reburial.

The massacre took place just a few months before the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, which claimed some 100,000 lives in total.

Both Mladic, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, and Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, considered masterminds of the massacre, are now being tried by a UN court for war crimes and genocide.

- © AFP, 2014

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