Netherlands liable for Muslim deaths at Srebrenica: court
THE HAGUE // The Dutch state is liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims who were expelled from a UN compound at Srebrenica in 1995 and subsequently murdered, the supreme court ruled yesterday.
"The appeals court decision is upheld," Judge Floris Bakels said, ruling that it would be "unacceptable" for countries not to be able to judge their peacekeeping troops.
Relatives of the victims broke down in tears and hugged each other and their lawyers after the verdict.
The final ruling in the long-running case means that former UN interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, whose father, mother and brother were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after Dutch peacekeepers expelled them from the UN base, can seek compensation from the Dutch state.
The ruling also applies to relatives of another worker on the base, electrician Rizo Mustafic, who was also killed after being sent to certain death at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces.
Mr Nuhanovic's mother, Nasiha, was killed although her death was not part of the current case, in which the Dutch state argued that the peacekeeping troops were under UN responsibility.
But, said Mr Bakels, clearing the Dutch state of responsibility would mean that "justice would have almost no way to judge armed interventions."
"That would be unacceptable," he said.
The three men at the centre of the case were among almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered by troops commanded by Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who brushed aside lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers and overran the supposedly safe enclave in July 1995, during Bosnia's three-year civil war.
Yesterday's hearing was the culmination of a case spanning a decade, lodged in 2003 by Mr Nuhanovic and Mustafic's relatives, who claim the three men, who all worked on the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) base, could have been saved in what became Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.
Rizo Mustafic's daughter, Alma, who lived through Srebrenica as a 14-year-old, said she was "very relieved" by the ruling.
"It's always very difficult to grieve, but I hope this decision will help us," Alma Mustafic said.
She told the court in January about the close relationship her father had with the Dutchbat soldiers stationed at Potocari.
But their short-lived relief turned into terror as they realised they were being escorted out of the base by armed Dutchbat soldiers, she said.
"I cannot describe the fear I felt as we walked out," she testified at the time.
Hasan Nuhanovic said after the ruling: "It's great, it's really great."
Updated: September 6, 2013 04:00 AM