Srebrenica survivors file case against Dutch soldiers

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Bosnian Muslim survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre on Tuesday filed a genocide complaint with Dutch prosecutors against three soldiers they say failed to protect their families, a statement said.

"Relatives of the victims of Srebrenica are pressing charges concerning genocide and war crimes committed by (Dutch battalion) Dutchbat soldiers in July 1995," the group said in the statement forwarded by their lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld.

"Among others, the charges are directed at the commander and deputy commander of Dutchbat III," it added, referring to the UN Dutch Battalion tasked with protecting the Srebrenica enclave that fell to Serb forces in July 1995.

Srebrenica had been a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces who loaded thousands of men and boys onto trucks, executed them and threw their bodies into mass graves in the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

In the following days they executed around 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The events were termed genocide by two international courts.

The Bosnian Serbs brushed aside the lightly-armed Dutch UN peacekeepers in the "safe area" where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection.

The UN has admitted it failed to protect the Srebrenica Muslims, but none of its officials were held responsible.

"On July 13, 1995, Dutchbat handed over (the survivors') family members to the Bosnian Serb enemy, who subsequently murdered them," added the statement.

The commander of Dutchbat III at the time was Thomas Karremans and his deputy Rob Franken. Dutch media have identified the third targeted soldier as personnel officer Berend Oosterveen.

The charges were filed by Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his parents and younger brother in the massacre, and Mehida, Damir and Alma Mustafic, the widow and children of victim Rizo Mustafic.

Nuhanovic, then 27, was employed as a translator for Dutchbat and Mustafic as an electrician. Both their families sought safety with Dutch troops, but say they were forced to flee into the hands of the Bosnian Serb enemy.

Zegveld said the complaint, which argues that Dutch criminal law applied to Dutch soldiers even abroad, was posted to prosecutors on Monday. The prosecutor's office could not confirm receipt.

A court in The Hague dismissed a bid by the same group in September 2008 to hold the Dutch state responsible for its troops' alleged failure. An appeals court also ruled in March that the UN enjoyed immunity from prosecution in the Netherlands.

© 2010 AFP

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