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Netherlands held responsible for three deaths in Srebrenica

A Dutch appeals court has ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims after the fall of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in 1995.

­The court said the Dutchbat (the Dutch division of the United Nations forces) did not provide proper protection to the Bosnian Muslims and “handed them over” to the Bosnian Serb army, resulting in their deaths.  

The three Bosnian Muslims employed by the Dutchbat were among thousands who took shelter in the UN compound in July 1995. Two days after Bosnian Serb troops overran Srebrenica, Dutch peacekeepers forced the Bosnian Muslims out of the compound at the Serbs’ demand.

"The Dutchbat had been witness to multiple incidents in which the Bosnian Serbs mistreated or killed male refugees outside the compound. The Dutch therefore knew that… the men were at great risk if they were to leave the compound," the court said in its ruling, adding the three men were among the last ones to be expelled on July 13, 1995.

The court ordered the Dutch government to compensate the families of the three men, although the exact amount of compensation was not provided.

During the Balkan conflict, the Dutchbat was guarding the region as part of a UN "safe zone." Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica in July 1995.

In 2008, a Dutch court ruled that the Netherlands was not responsible for the deaths of Bosnian Dutchbat employees and their families. The court based its decision on the fact that the soldiers had been operating under a UN mandate.

The recent overruling by the Dutch appeals court may have been caused by a will to shift the blame from the UN to a member state, argued political analyst Aleksandar Pavic. If the UN had been found liable in this lawsuit, then it would have been potentially liable in multiple other cases filed against the international organization around the world.

The Dutch were left there [in Srebrenica] to shoulder the blame. They were patrolling with 300 poorly armed soldiers against 4,000 well-armed Bosnian soldiers who were never disarmed, even though there was a UN mandate to disarm them,” said Pavic.

If the Netherlands is pressed further, it might lead to further revelations of what really happened in Srebrenica, added the analyst.

We keep talking about 8,000 being killed,” explained Pavic. “But 8,000 bodies have never been recovered. So far less than 2,000 bodies have actually been recovered – of that number, most have wounds indicating casualties in battle and not by any sort of execution.