Dutch state liable for Srebrenica deaths

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The court in The Hague has ruled that the state of the Netherlands is responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995. The government has been ordered to pay damages to the next of kin, who brought the case to court.

Hasan Nuhanovic - an interpreter for the Dutch battalion of UN peacekeepers Dutchbat which was responsible for protecting the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in Bosnia - and the next of kin of Rizo Mustafic, a Dutchbat electrician, filed a lawsuit against the Dutch state alleging that Dutchbat knowingly handed over their relatives to the Bosnian Serbs.

The Dutch were in charge of Srebrenica when, under the command of then-general Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Serb forces overran it and killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

The two men had sought refuge at the Dutchbat headquarters with their families. Mustafic was forced to leave and separated from his wife just outside the compound fence. She was taken away and never heard from again; he was killed by Bosnian Serb forces. Nuhanovic was allowed to stay, but his relatives were forced to leave. The remains of his father and brother were recovered in 2007 and 2010.

The court ruled that Dutchbat, which abandoned the enclave in the face of a superior Bosnian-Serb force, should have foreseen that Mladic’s soldiers would kill the men, noting that Dutchbat had witnessed the abuse and execution of Muslim men at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces. The three were the last of a group of 5,000 men who had sought refuge in the Dutch compound.

Liesbeth Zegveld, the lawyer of Hasan Nuhanovic, has been bringing cases against the Dutch state for the past decade. In order to help victims of war crimes such as the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, Zegveld has founded the Nuhanovic Foundation, which offers legal expertise and advice to victims’ lawyers. The case of Hasan Nuhanovic is typical of the kind of procedures that the foundation plans to support.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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