News 16 Jul 14

Netherlands Declared Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

A Dutch court has ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995 because its peacekeeping troops failed to protect them.

BIRN
Dutch peacekeepers in Potocari in 1995.

The district court in The Hague ruled in a landmark verdict on Wednesday that Dutch peacekeepers had failed to protect the Bosniaks after Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army in July 1995, and ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation to hundreds of victims.

After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, many Bosniak men and boys tried to escape through the woods while others headed for the nearby UN peacekeepers’ base at Potocari, where the Dutch battalion (known as ‘Dutchbat’) was stationed.

Several hundred men managed to get inside the Potocari base, but were told by the Dutch troops that they would be safe outside and handed over to the Serbs, who later killed them.

“The state is liable for the loss suffered by relatives of the men who were deported by the Bosnian Serbs from the Dutchbat compound in Potocari in the afternoon of 13 July, 1995,” the court in The Hague ruled.

“Dutchbat should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victims of genocide and that it can be said with sufficient certainty that, had Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive,” it said.

More than 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica were killed in total, in the worst massacres in Europe since World War II, which international court verdicts have defined as genocide.

The Dutch peacekeepers, who were stationed in Srebrenica after it was declared a ‘safe area’ by the UN in 1993, had an obligation to protect the civilian population. The relatives’ lawsuit charged them with failing to do so.

Munira Subasic, whose son was among those who took refuge in the Dutch compound but was expelled and then killed, welcomed the verdict but said that the judges should have ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for all the Srebrenica deaths.

“We are not satisfied that they didn’t recognise all the victims [died because the Dutch troops did not protect them],” Subasic told BIRN.

More than 15,000 people marked the 19th anniversary of the mass killings last week at a remembrance event in Potocari which saw the burial of the remains of 175 of the victims who were identified over the past year.

Thirty Bosnian Serbs have so far been jailed over the massacres, while the trials of their political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are still ongoing.

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Background

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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