Dutch state liable for Muslim deaths at Srebrenica: court

6th September 2013, Comments 6 comments

The Dutch state is liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims who were expelled from a UN compound at Srebrenica in 1995, the supreme court ruled Friday.

"The (appeals) court decision is upheld," Judge Floris Bakels said as relatives of the victims broke down in tears and hugged each other and their lawyers.

The final ruling in the long-running case means that former UN interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, whose father, mother and brother were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after Dutch peacekeepers expelled them from the UN base, can seek compensation from the Dutch state.

The ruling also applies to relatives of another worker on the base, electrician Rizo Mustafic, who was also killed after being sent to certain death at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces.

Nuhanovic's mother, Nasiha, was killed although her death was not part of the current case, in which the Dutch state argued that the peacekeeping troops were under UN responsibility.

But, said Judge Bakels, clearing the Dutch state of responsibility would mean that "justice would have almost no way to judge armed interventions."

"That would be unacceptable," he said.

The three men at the centre of the case were among almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered by troops commanded by Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who brushed aside lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers and overran the supposedly safe enclave in July 1995, during Bosnia's brutal three-year civil war.

Friday's hearing was the culmination of a case spanning a decade, lodged in 2003 by Nuhanovic and Mustafic's relatives, who claim the three men -- who all worked on the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) base -- could have been saved in what became Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Rizo Mustafic's daughter, Alma, who lived through Srebrenica as a 14-year-old, told the court in January about the close relationship her father had with the Dutchbat soldiers stationed at Potocari.

"They regularly visited us at home. They even once celebrated Christmas at our house, despite the fact that we had almost nothing to eat and that we don't celebrate Christmas," she said.

But their short-lived relief turned into terror as they realised they were being escorted out of the base by armed Dutchbat soldiers, she added.

"I cannot describe the fear I felt as we walked out," she said.

A Dutch appeals court in 2011 found the Dutch state responsible for the trio's deaths, the first time it was held accountable for the Dutch UN battalion's actions.

But the Dutch state then appealed, saying it believed the UN controlled Dutchbat soldiers in Bosnia.

Mladic, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", and former Bosnian Serb political chief Radovan Karadzic are currently facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity before the Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague.

Widows of victims at Srebrenica filed a lawsuit in October last year against the UN and the Dutch state before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), accusing them of negligence by failing to protect victims.

The Mothers of Srebrenica took their case to the ECHR after attempts in the Netherlands failed.

© 2013 AFP

6 Comments To This Article

  • carrico posted:

    on 11th September 2013, 02:02:26 - Reply

    One further thought: Until we discuss these outrages, openly and honestly, we ain't got..............a rat's a*s in hell. Sorry, just frustrated with inability of some people to..........Hear>
  • carrico posted:

    on 9th September 2013, 12:44:48 - Reply

    And yet, Richard, I am amazed at how honest the Dutch are. Ever been to the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam? Each time I go, I see the agony of their self-appraisal. Watch the groups of Dutch school children who are gently led through the exhibits by their teachers. As a teacher/parent, it is very.....humbling, I think the word is.
  • richard posted:

    on 6th September 2013, 20:28:23 - Reply

    Dutch are known for letting minority groups down. Look up history, it was in the Netherlands that most jews got killed (Dutch locals turned jews in,in exchange for 'rewards on a per jew basis handed by germans) Recent history, when Wilders set up a website to enable Dutch to list 'polish who stole their job' (polenmeldpunt.nl), the Dutch government did little to protect Polish against this (racial) harrassment Finally, when the moslim minorities -who were in fact once invited by Dutch to do their 'hard work' in the 1960- were bashed for a full decade, I can't remember Dutch politicians taking a stand against this 'public' bashing either. Compensation: only recently did the indonesian 'troost vrouwen' (comfort women who were used for sex for Dutch army) ask the Dutch for the zillionth time to acknowledge their suffering, a direct result of the Dutch's actions, and the Dutch never agreed to say 'they are sorry for what happened'. Why? a Dutch lawyer explained: if Dutch government would say 'sorry' in public, it would entitle those women for a financial compensation, since a law case would likely be won, based on Dutch who admitted wrong doing. I hate to bring it up, but the Dutch did invent the word Apartheid. [Edited by moderator]
  • mskadin posted:

    on 6th September 2013, 14:51:40 - Reply

    The Dutch government, and these solders should never have let this occur.
    Yes, compensation, a small token, for the loss of life of those who lost their life.
    Now what is the Dutch Government to do a formal apology?Are they to consider why this really did occur and truly look at their mistake and "try" not to have this happen again?

  • Geoff posted:

    on 6th September 2013, 13:25:11 - Reply

    Finally, what was clearly apparant is now official. The Dutch army (the state) was responsible for the death of the Muslims in their charge. Why has it taken so long to reach this conclusion?
  • Bruce posted:

    on 6th September 2013, 13:22:27 - Reply

    Surely it should be the UN that is liable as they were operating under the UN flag. Then the UN could put the UN on trial for war crimes!!