News 21 Sep 17

Dutch Govt Challenges Ruling on Srebrenica Deaths

The Dutch government has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling finding it partially liable for the deaths of around 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica killed after being expelled from a Dutch UN peacekeepers’ base.

Dzana Brkanic
Dutch UN peacekeepers in Potocari near Srebrenica in July 1995.

The Dutch government will challenge the ruling holding it liable for the deaths of the 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in July 1995, media reported on Wednesday.

But the lawyers representing the families of some of the Bosniaks who were killed told BIRN that they will also appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court, asking it to find the Netherlands liable for many more deaths.

One of the lawyers, Marco Gerritsen, who is acting for the Mothers of Srebrenica organisation, said they would ask the Supreme Court to pronounce the Dutch authorities guilty of “the death of a group much bigger than 350 boys and men”.

The Dutch ruling, handed down by the appeals court in The Hague in June, relates to the deaths of some 300 Bosniak men who had taken refuge at the Dutch UN peacekeepers’ base near Srebrenica in July 1995 but were forced to leave and subsequently killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

But the ruling does not relate to the deaths of the rest of around 8,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 - a crime classified as genocide by international court decisions.

The Dutch defence ministry said that it does not believe that its troops broke the law.

“We do not share the judge’s opinion that Dutch UN peacemakers acted unlawfully and we do not understand how the court reached that verdict,” defence ministry spokesperson Klaas Meijer told Reuters on Wednesday.

But Gerritsen told BIRN that the Netherlands “has denied any kind of responsibility for the death of more than seven thousand men and boys from Srebrenica from the very beginning”, so its decision to bring the appeal does not come as a surprise.

“Their stance has not changed since the moment we brought our first action in 2007,” Gerritsen said.

He argued that the Dutch peacekeepers “failed to fulfil their obligations and orders issued by the United Nations to protect civilians”.

“It is important to mention that Dutch soldiers did not even inform the UN of the horrible violation of human rights they witnessed, so our attitude is that the Netherlands is guilty of the death of thousands of men and boys who were present in the enclave,” he added.

Hajra Catic of the Mothers of Srebrenica said, on behalf of families of the victims, that they would continue fighting for justice.

“Hope dies last. Our lawyers will bring an appeal as well. I consider the Netherlands responsible for what happened inside and outside the compound, as well as in the woods [where Bosniaks tried to hide from Bosnian Serb forces],” Catic said.

Hasan Nuhanovic, who won a case in 2013 at the Dutch Supreme Court, which ruled that the Dutch state was responsible for not preventing three Bosniaks from being killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacres, said he had made his documentation and material evidence available to the Mothers of Srebrenica and their lawyers.

Nuhanovic said he hoped that the final verdict in their case would go in favour of the families of the victims, adding that “compensation has been paid” in his own case.

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Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

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