Monday, 19 August, 2019

Dutch state partly liable for Srebrenica deaths

Relatives of the Srebrenica victims were represented by the Mothers of Srebrenica group which was suing for compensation Relatives of the Srebrenica victims were represented by the Mothers of Srebrenica group which was suing for compensation
Steven Clarke | 19 July, 2019, 18:25

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld on Friday an earlier ruling that found the Dutch state partly liable for the deaths in 1995 of 350 Bosnian Muslim men who were expelled from a United Nations base and executed at Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces, Reuters reported.

The Supreme Court found that the Dutch forces could have allowed those men to stay in the base and that, by handing them over, they had knowingly and unlawfully sent them to possible abuse or death at the hands of the Bosnian Serb troops.

The Supreme Court agreed that "the state did act wrongfully in relation to the evacuation of the 5,000 refugees" in the compound, including 350 Muslim men the Bosnian Serbs were unaware of.

"They took away the chance of the men to stay out of the hands of the Bosnian Serbs", it said.

The supreme court had, however, slashed the Dutch state's liability from 30 to just 10 percent and said the Dutch UN mission receiving effective support from the global community had a "slim" chance of preventing the killings. "We know what happened; we don't need this court to tell us".

As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports about the Srebenica massacre for our Newscast unit, the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal found Mladic guilty of "masterminding the killing of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe's worst massacre since World War II".

"They are responsible and they will always have a stain", Munira Subasic, one of the relatives who brought the case, said angrily of the Dutch.

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"We want to express again our sympathy to the relatives of the victims", she said in a statement.

The high court's ruling Friday affirmed a lower court ruling.

However, in January, the Supreme Court's Advocate General issued a non-binding advisory opinion calling the 2017 judgment "irrational" and saying it "cannot be upheld".

In the 2017 judgment, the Hague Court of Appeal ruled that the Dutch forces' actions deprived the men of any chance of survival.

Asim Salihovic, who had 40 relatives killed at Srebrenica, says "they would have protected us if they wanted to".

As a result, the court said, the state's liability is "limited to 10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives of these 350 male refugees", and those survivors may now seek compensation from the Netherlands.

In 2017, the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court. The bodies were plowed into hastily dug mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide evidence of the massacre.

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