Dutch state admits responsibility over Srebrenica deaths

An appeals court in the Netherlands concluded yesterday that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men in the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 people were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces.

The verdict, a potential landmark ruling which is expected to open the way for other compensation claims, was issued by a court in The Hague hearing the case of three Bosnian Muslim men who were working for Dutch forces controlling a UN "safe area" in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in the run-up to the massacre in July 1995.

The three were among thousands who took shelter in the UN compound as Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on 11 July. Dutch peacekeepers – known as "Dutchbat" – bowed to Bosnian Serb demands and forced the Muslims out of the compound two days later. Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were subsequently rounded up and shot by Mladic's troops in the worst massacre in Europe since the Second World War.

The Hague appeals court concluded that the Dutch forces had been wrong to let the three men leave the compound and bore responsibility for their deaths.

"Dutchbat had been witness to multiple incidents in which the Bosnian Serbs mistreated or killed male refugees outside the compound. They therefore knew that the men were at great risk," the judges concluded.

The ruling is a reversal of previous Dutch court verdicts, which have sided with the arguments of the government in The Hague. These have claimed that the Dutch state was not responsible because its troops were operating under a UN mandate.

The case was brought by relatives of Rizo Mustafic, a Srebrenica victim who was employed as an electrician by Dutchbat and by Hasan Nuhanovic, an interpreter who lost his father and brother in the massacre.

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