Dutch state partly liable for Srebrenica deaths


The Dutch government accepted on Friday that the state was partially liable for the deaths in 1995 of 350 Muslim males who were expelled from a United Nations base and killed by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica.

The Mothers of Srebenica is an umbrella group formed by families and loved ones who say Dutch U.N. peacekeeping troops didn't do everything they could to prevent Muslim men from being murdered by Bosnian Serbs led by Ratko Mladic, the "butcher of Bosnia" who was convicted of genocide and war crimes in 2017.

As for the fate of the 350 male Muslims - who had remained in the Dutch camp without being seen by the Bosnian Serb force - the Supreme Court said that the chance the male refugees would have escaped with their lives had they been given the choice to stay "was slim, but not negligible".

The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified Muslim residents of the Srebrenica area who took shelter in the Dutch peacekeepers' base when the region was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was convicted of genocide by a United Nations war crimes tribunal in 2017 for masterminding the massacre that left some 8,000 Muslim men and boys dead.

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.

The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees, but said the peacekeepers had been on "mission impossible".

Bosnian Serb forces went on to murder a total of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in one of the worst mass killings in Europe since the end of World War II.

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"No matter if it's one percent, ten percent or 100 percent, they are responsible", she said.

Outnumbered and too lightly equipped to deal with the onslaught, the Dutch UN peacekeeping force, known as the Dutch battalion or Dutchbat, requested air support but was denied. If people make mistakes - and Dutchbat made a mistake - so be it, that's fine.

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".

The Dutch forces improvised a funnel of vehicles and troops through which the Muslims left the base.

Although the court said the Dutch were responsible, it estimated its liability at "10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives". Some 15,000 Srebrenica residents fled into the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.

In 2017, the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court.