Saturday 24 February 2018

Dutch government partially liable for 300 Srebrenica deaths, court rules

Dutch UN peacekeepers sit on top of an armoured personnel carrier as Muslim refugees from Srebrenica gather in the nearby village of Potocari (AP)
Dutch UN peacekeepers sit on top of an armoured personnel carrier as Muslim refugees from Srebrenica gather in the nearby village of Potocari (AP)

The Dutch government is partially liable for the deaths of some 300 Muslim men murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, an appeals court has ruled.

The ruling largely upheld a civil court's 2014 judgment that said the state was liable in the deaths of the Bosnian Muslim men who were turned over by Dutch UN peacekeepers to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 and subsequently killed.

Hague Appeals Court presiding judge Gepke Dulek says that because Dutch soldiers sent the men off the Dutch compound along with other refugees seeking shelter there, "they were deprived of the chance of survival".

The men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.

The ruling angered a group of female relatives of victims of the massacre who were in court for the ruling.

Munira Subasic, who leads an organisation called the Mothers of Srebrenica that brought the case, stood up and waved her finger at the judge after the ruling, saying "this is a huge injustice".

The court estimated the men's chances of survival if they had stayed in the Dutch compound at around 30%.

"The state is therefore liable for 30% of the losses suffered by the relatives," the court said in a statement.

Lawyers for the victims can now begin discussions with government lawyers about compensation.

Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, who represented the relatives, said he understood the relatives' anger.

He added: "But from a legal point of view it is not that bad. Of course we would have hoped for more and I think we had a good case."

Mr Gerritsen called the court's assessment of the men's survival chances "very arbitrary".

He said he will study the judgment to see if it is possible to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court.

Tuesday's ruling is the latest in a string of legal cases in the Netherlands concerning the country's role in the Srebrenica massacre and whether the country's soldiers could or should have done more to prevent the mass killings.

On July 13 1995, Dutch peacekeepers bowed to pressure from Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic and forced thousands of Muslims out of their fenced-off compound, where they had sought refuge.

The Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away and began killing them in what would become the bloody climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a slaughter that international courts have ruled was genocide.

The war claimed 100,000 lives in all.

The Srebrenica bodies were buried in hastily made mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide the evidence.

Mladic is on trial for genocide and other offences at a UN tribunal in The Hague for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre and other crimes during the war.


Press Association

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