Srebrenica Lawsuit: Lawyer for Plaintiffs
CBC Radio Program: The Current
June 17, 2008
In the summer of 1995, Srebrenica was supposed to be a haven from the killing of the Bosnian war. Instead, it became the site of the worst atrocity in Europe since WWII. Roughly eight thousand Bosnian Muslims -- or Bosniaks as they are sometimes called -- were executed by Bosnian Serb forces.
A battalion of United Nations peacekeepers from the Netherlands was stationed near Srebrenica at the time. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims sought refuge with the peacekeepers, but ended up in the hands of the Serb army as it over-ran the town.
That fact is at the crux of two lawsuits that landed in Dutch courtrooms.
On June 18, 2008, a group called the "Mothers of Srebrenica" planned to launch a $4 billion lawsuit against the Dutch Government for failing to protect their relatives in Srebrenica. On June 16, 2008, a survivor of Srebrenica named Hasan Nuhanovic took the stand in a similar case. He worked for the U.N. as a translator and sued the Dutch Government for failing to protect his mother, father and brother. They were all killed by Serb soldiers after they went to the U.N. base seeking refuge.
We first introduced you to Mr. Nuhanovic in a documentary we ran on The Current five years ago called "The Bones of Srebrenica." We heard Mr. Nuhanovic describe what happened to his family in Srebrenica in 1995.
Liesbeth Zegveld is the lawyer representing Mr. Nuhanovic and the family of a second victim. She joined us from Amsterdam.
"Responsibility To Protect"
At the centre of this case is the idea of a "responsibility to protect." It's a contentious concept in international relations, and one that has yet to be fully defined in practice. Ramesh Thakur was one of the principle authors who wrote the United Nations' Responsibility to Protect doctrine and became a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation at the University of Waterloo. He joined us from Waterloo, Ontario.