Compensation to Srebrenica families sets a good example



The conduct of Dutch troops in the lead-up to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre is, and will remain, a deeply shameful moment in that nation’s history. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims had sought protection in the camp of a battalion of Dutch UN peacekeepers, in an attempt to escape the likely slaughter at the hands of Ratko Mladic’s advancing Bosnian-Serb army. The outnumbered Dutch troops – fearful of being overrun – bowed to pressure from Mladic and forced the Muslim families out of their compound. Some 8,000 men and boys were then executed in the bloodiest massacre of post-Second World War Europe.

That the Dutch battalion contributed to what the war crimes tribunal in The Hague has since classified as an act of genocide has come to be accepted by the Dutch population; after a photograph emerged of the Dutch UN commander drinking a toast with Mladic, guilt could hardly be ignored. So damning were details of the episode that a 2002 report led to the resignation of a Prime Minister. Nevertheless, today’s ruling that the Dutch state should pay compensation to the families of 300 men murdered by Mladic’s forces does not come free from controversy.

Families of the victims say many more should receive recompense, including those who fled into the forest before they were rounded up and killed. Yet it is the impact this ruling will have on future peacekeeping forces that will most concern leaders of the UN and Western governments. In its global operations, the UN holds legal immunity in all but a few, minor areas. But this case has taken the Dutch troops seconded to the UN outside their legal umbrella – and into costly accountability.

This ought not obscure the positive example set by the Dutch court. The broad principle of UN immunity is important – but there is a gathering case for more exceptions to be made. It would strengthen accountability. As this case comes to a close, the UN is still refusing to face up to overwhelming evidence that a series of basic errors by peacekeepers brought cholera into Haiti. Admitting some liability in the most extreme of cases need not bankrupt the UN. It would instead restore its moral credit.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Graphic Designer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff

Daily catch-up: the gap between rich and poor has narrowed (a little) since the banking crisis

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot