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Dutch commission to probe Srebrenica deaths damages

Published on February 14, 2020

The Dutch government said Friday it is to set up an independent commission to look into the compensation for relatives of 350 victims killed at Srebrenica during Bosnia’s 1990s civil war.

Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the Srebrenica genocide when the beseiged enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 despite the presence of Dutch UN peacekeepers.

The 350 men whose cases are covered by the new Dutch commission had sought safety in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base, but they were later expelled and killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

The Dutch Supreme Court in a long-running case last year ruled the Dutch state had limited liability for their deaths.

“An independent commission has been appointed to probe and judge applications” for compensation, the Dutch cabinet said following its weekly meeting.

“The details will be worked out in the coming weeks,” it added.

The failure of Dutch peacekeepers to prevent the Srebrenica massacre — the worst in Europe since World War II — has been a stain on the national conscience ever since.

The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified residents who had sought protection in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base.

Lightly armed Dutch troops eventually became overwhelmed at the base and shut the gates to new arrivals before allowing Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic to evacuate the refugees.

The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths, their bodies dumped in mass graves.

The Dutch Supreme Court last year reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent the state’s responsibility for compensation to the families in a case brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ organisation.

The ruling was decried by both the Mothers of Srebrenica and veteran soldiers of the Dutchbat, he Dutch UN mission to Srebrenica, saying it was unfair towards the victims’ families.

The Dutch government however said “it is important here to keep in mind who the guilty party is: the Bosnian Serb forces”, adding that the peacekeepers “found themselves in exceptionally difficult circumstances.”

Mladic, 76, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an international tribunal in The Hague.