Court: Dutch partially liable for Srebrenica deaths
A Dutch appeals court has confirmed that the Netherlands was partly liable for the deaths of about 300 Muslims who were expelled from a Dutch United Nations base after the surrounding area was overrun by Bosnian Serb troops.
The ruling by the Hague Appeals Court upholds a 2014 decision that Dutch peacekeepers could have known that the men seeking refuge at the base in the village of Potocari would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if forced to leave - as they were.
The Muslims seeking shelter were among about 8,000 people killed in the July 1995 massacre, which the UN International Court for Justice, in a 2007 verdict, ruled a genocide.
Tuesday’s ruling is seen as exceptional as the UN enjoys immunity from prosecution.
However, the Dutch case is almost unique in holding a state participating in a UN peacekeeping mission liable for its actions.
Many of the Muslim victims had fled to the UN-declared “safe zone” in Srebrenica only to find the outnumbered and lightly-armed Dutch troops there unable to defend them. They then headed to the nearby Dutch base.
Reading the complex ruling, Presiding Judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said that Dutch soldiers “knew or should have known that the men were not only being screened ... but were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution”.
The ruling relates only to the 300 men who had sought safety on the Dutch-controlled base.
In a departure from the earlier ruling, it said the Netherlands should pay only 30 percent of damages, as it estimated the odds at 70 percent that the victims would have been dragged from the base and killed regardless of what the Dutch soldiers did.
The amount of damages is determined in a separate procedure unless the victims and the state can reach a settlement.
Dutch state lawyers left the court building without commenting on the ruling.
The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees, though the Netherlands maintains that the Bosnian Serbs, not Dutch troops, bear responsibility for the killings.
Mladic is on trial for genocide with a verdict expected later this year.
The court rejected an appeal from relatives of other Srebrenica victims, who argued the Dutch government should be held responsible for the protection of thousands more Muslims who had gathered outside the base.
“This is a great injustice,” said Munira Subasic of the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ group.
“The Dutch state should take its responsibility for our victims because they could have kept them all safe on the Dutchbat (Dutch battalions’) compo und.”