Dutch held ‘partially responsible’ for Bosnian deaths
Dutch UN peacekeepers were partly liable for the deaths of about 300 Muslim men killed near Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995, ruled an appeals court in The Hague.
The decision upholds a 2014 ruling that the soldiers from the Netherlands should have known that the men seeking refuge at their base (pictured) would be killed by Bosnian-Serb troops if they were not offered shelter.
But unlike that judgement, the new decision limits the Dutch government’s liability to 30 per cent of the damages, based on its assessment that the victims would have had a 70-per-cent chance of being killed even if Dutch soldiers had not wrongfully ordered them, on July 13, 1995, to leave a UN compound after the area was overrun by Bosnian-Serb paramilitaries.
Around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in total were killed by Bosnian-Serb troops in Srebrenica in July 1995.
Many Muslims fled to Srebrenica’s UN-designated “safe” area only to find themselves outnumbered and the lightly armed Dutch troops unable to defend them. They then approached the Dutch base nearby, only to be subsequently handed over to their murderers.
Judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said the UN troops “knew or should have known that the men were not only being screened … but were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution … by having the men leave the compound unreservedly, they were deprived of a chance of survival”.
Dulek-Schermers said the troops separated the men and the boys among the refugees.
The amount of damages has not been determined and is subject to negotiation with the Netherlands government.
Meanwhile, 200 Dutch veterans said they would sue the government for compensation for the trauma they suffered after being sent on “an impossible mission” to Srebrenica.
Their lawyer Michael Ruperti said the men were campaigning for a “symbolic” €22,000, or €1,000 for every year since 1995, bringing the total to €4.5 million.
The 200 troops from the Dutch battalion or Dutchbat III were protecting the Muslim enclave when it was attacked by the Bosnian Serbs’ then general Ratko Mladić.
The male Muslims were systematically separated from females, hauled away, bound, shot and buried in mass graves. A few survivors pretended to be dead.
This week’s ruling relates to 300 men who had sought sanctuary on the Dutch-controlled base.
The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure in Srebrenica. The Netherlands says the Bosnian Serbs, not Dutch forces, bear responsibility for the killings.
Dutchbat headquarters in Potocari. Picture credit: Flickr