Dutch state liable for more than 300 Srebrenica deaths, court rules

Wednesday 16 July 2014 23.35
1 of 2
A burial at the Potocari Memorial Center last week, as part of a ceremony to mark the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre
A burial at the Potocari Memorial Center last week, as part of a ceremony to mark the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre
Relatives accused Dutch UN peacekeepers of failing to protect the 8,000 men and boys
Relatives accused Dutch UN peacekeepers of failing to protect the 8,000 men and boys

A court in the Netherlands has ruled the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 victims of the Srebrenica massacre.

Srebrenica was the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

Relatives had launched a lawsuit accusing Dutch UN peacekeepers of failing to protect the 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed.

The court said: "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 district court in The Hague said Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica could have known that the 300 men who had sought refuge in their base in the village of Potocari would be murdered if deported from the compound.

Srebrenica was a Bosnian Muslim enclave in Bosnian Serb-held territory.

The court said the Netherlands was not liable for the deaths of those who had fled into the forests surrounding Srebrenica, where many of the men and boys were later buried in mass graves.

The ruling could set a precedent with implications for future peacekeeping deployments by the Netherlands or other countries.

During the Bosnian war, the Dutch battalion had been deployed to protect Srebrenica, which had been designated a safe haven by the United Nations, but surrendered to the much larger Bosnian Serb army commanded by Ratko Mladic, who is on trial for war crimes at an international court in The Hague.

The case was brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing surviving relatives of the victims.

They had failed in their case to have a court find the United Nations responsible for the massacre.

"At the moment that the men were sent away, Dutchbat knew or should have known that the genocide was taking place and therefore there was a serious risk that those men would be killed," said Judge Peter Blok.

The failure of Dutch soldiers to protect the Muslim men and boys of Srebrenica has left a deep scar in Dutch politics, contributing to the resignation of the Dutch government in 2002.

The three-year Bosnian war, in which at least 100,000 people were killed, was the bloodiest of a series of conflicts that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.