Court Rebuffs Srebrenica Survivors' Claim
September 10, 2008
SARAJEVO -- The Dutch government cannot be held responsible for the
failure of its peacekeepers to prevent the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica,
a Dutch court ruled, rejecting the claim for compensation filed by
Srebrenica survivors and victims' families.
"The state cannot be held responsible for the Dutchbat (Dutch battalion)
actions," said presiding judge Hans Hofhuis.
The court ruling added that if national courts were to start judging
United Nations actions and operations, it could have significant negative
effects on the future work and decision-making of the UN Security Council,
local media reported.
The case that led to Wednesday's ruling of the Hague Court was brought by
Hasan Nuhanovic, a UN interpreter who lost his brother, mother and father,
and by relatives of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician who worked for the UN
but was despite that killed by Bosnian Serb forces when they overrun the
eastern Bosnian Muslim enclave in July 1995.
Some 8,000 men and boys were killed - many of them executed en masse - in
the single biggest massacre in Europe after the Second World War. Bosnianswho had sought refuge in the UN forces' base at Potocari were ordered
by Dutch peacekeepers to leave the base despite the fact that other
Bosnian Muslim refugees were already being killed and raped by Serb
soldiers only a few metres outside the UN-controlled area.
Wednesday's ruling delivered another blow to the Srebrenica survivors
and families of the victims, after on July 10 the same court overturned
its previous decision and declared it had no jurisdiction to process
the civil suit pressed by Srebrenica survivors against the UN.
The plaintiffs claimed that both the UN and the Dutch troops failed
to take effective action to prevent the massacre, thus violating the
UN convention on genocide.
The case was the first attempt of its kind to hold a state that
participated in an international peacekeeping force responsible for
failing to protect civilians.
In the hearings that took place on June 16 the Dutch government claimed
it did not have the mandate nor the means to protect the civilian
population against armed forces such as the Bosnian Serb army. However
plaintiffs claimed the Dutch commander on the ground never requested
NATO air support although it was available and although NATO planes
were already in the air.
The Srebrenica massacre eventually triggered a major public outcry
worldwide, which led to NATO air-strikes against Bosnian Serb military
targets across the country, which in turn enabled the Dayton peace talks
that ended Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
Mass graves where bodies of Srebrenica victims were buried are still
being identified and exhumed 13 years after the war.