Published: Fri, July 19, 2019

Dutch state has 'very limited liability' for Srebrenica

Dutch state has 'very limited liability' for Srebrenica

The court estimated their chance of survival if they had stayed in the Dutch compound at around 30% and said the Dutch state was liable for 30% of losses suffered by their surviving relatives.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as worldwide peacekeepers.

Altogether, more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic in Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II.

"But the ruling could set an worldwide legal precedent for states' liability when their troops take part in peacekeeping missions".

It focuses on some 350 men who were among the 5,000 terrified Muslims who took refuge in the Dutch battalion's base near Srebrenica but were expelled by the peacekeepers as part of a mass evacuation.

During the Bosnian conflict in 1995, several hundred outgunned Dutch peacekeeping troops had been assigned to protect a United Nations -designated "safe area" where thousands of Muslims had sought refuge from Bosnian Serb forces - among them 350 men who made it into the Dutch base.

The Netherlands' highest court is passing judgment Friday in appeals against a 2017 ruling by a lower court that the Dutch government was partially liable in the men's deaths during the bloody climax of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday slashed the state's liability for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war, saying peacekeepers had only a "slim" chance of preventing the deaths of hundreds of Muslim men.

Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk said "the state did act wrongfully" and told relatives of the dead they can now claim compensation from the Dutch government.

Numerous victims had fled to the UN-declared "safe zone" in Srebrenica, only to find the outnumbered Dutch troops there unable to defend them.

While the supreme court upheld the partial liability of the state, it rejected a second charge - that the assistance given by Dutch forces in removing those gathered outside the base had been unlawful.

Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.

Noting that Mladic's fighters would have likely discovered the men during an inspection of the compound, the court added that their fate would have been sealed, adding, "The chance of Dutchbat receiving effective support from the global community was slim".

Srebrenica has cast a long shadow over The Netherlands, forcing the government to resign in 2002 after a scathing report over the role of politicians in the failure of the peacekeepers.

Ex-military chief Ratko Mladic, 76, dubbed the "butcher of Bosnia", is now appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an worldwide tribunal in The Hague.

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