An appeals court in the Netherlands ruled on Tuesday that the Dutch state is responsible for the deaths of three Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, while Eastern Bosnia was under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers.
REUTERS - The Dutch state is responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men after the fall of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war, a Dutch appeals court ruled on Tuesday, opening the door to compensation claims.
Dutch troops were in charge of the U.N.-declared ‘safe area’ at Srebrenica in July 1995 when Bosnian Serb forces overran the enclave and killed about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.
Relatives of a local electrician who assisted the Dutch but was killed at Srebrenica, and the troops’ local interpreter, whose father and brother are also believed to have died, lodged legal action against the Dutch state seeking damages.
In its ruling, the court said the Dutch state was responsible for the death of these men because the Dutch U.N. troops, known as Dutchbat, should not have allowed the men to leave the safe area or fall into the hands of the Bosnian Serb forces.
“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,” the court said in its ruling.
The Dutch government, which has faced several lawsuits in recent years over the massacre, has always insisted that its troops were abandoned by the United Nations, which provided them no air support.
A case launched by the group Mothers of Srebrenica against the Dutch state is now before the Dutch Supreme Court, where lawyers are seeking a referral of the case to the European Court of Justice to also challenge the immunity of the United Nations.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the appeals court said its decision only applied to the specific case of the three Muslim men and no ruling had been made over the situation of the other refugees at Srebrenica.
However, the court said that Dutch troops were initially operating under U.N. orders and that an “exceptional situation” developed after the fall of Srebrenica. Since the Dutch government tried to intervene in the situation, it could be held responsible for the deaths of three men, the court said.
The Srebrenica massacre remains a sensitive issue in the Netherlands, where the government fell in 2002 after a damning report by the Dutch Institute for War Documentation into the events surroundings the killings.
Date created : 2011-07-05