A Dutch appeals court found the Netherlands partially liable for the deaths of around 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed after being expelled from a Dutch UN peacekeepers’ base in 1995.
The appeals court in The Hague on Tuesday ruled that the Dutch state was partly liable for the deaths of some 300 Bosniak men who were forced out of a Dutch UN peacekeepers’ base near Srebrenica in July 1995 and subsequently killed by Bosnian Serb forces.
The decision upheld a previous ruling in 2014 that the peacekeepers should have been aware that the Bosniaks would be killed if they had to leave the base where they had taken refuge.
Presiding judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said that Dutch troops “knew or should have known” that the men “were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution”, Reuters reported.
The court ruled that the Dutch state is liable for around 30 per cent of any damages awarded to the victims’ relatives, because it said it was not clear whether the men would have been killed anyway even if they were allowed to remain inside the base.
The ruling only applies to around 300 Bosniaks who had taken refuge at the base in Potocari, not to the rest of around 8,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 – a crime classified as genocide by international court decisions.
After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, many Bosniak men and boys tried to escape through the nearby woods while others headed for the UN peacekeepers’ base at Potocari, where the Dutch battalion (known as ‘Dutchbat’) was stationed.
Several hundred men managed to get inside the Potocari base, but were told by the Dutch troops that they would be safe outside and handed over to the Serbs, who later killed them.
The Dutch peacekeepers, who were stationed in Srebrenica after it was declared a ‘safe area’ by the UN in 1993, had an obligation to protect the civilian population.
In a separate development on Monday, more than 200 former UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands are to sue the Dutch government for sending them to Srebrenica, AFP news agency reported.
The move comes after the Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert last year described the Srebrenica deployment as “an unrealistic mission, in impossible circumstances”.
“As from tomorrow [Tuesday], 206 of my clients are claiming compensation of 22,000 euros each," the troops’ lawyer Michael Ruperti was quoted as saying by AFP.
“They are still experiencing damages in all aspects of their lives and believe that the defence ministry should be held responsible,” Ruperti said.