The Dutch state is not responsible for the actions of Dutch soldiers who were in charge of the UN safe haven at Srebrenica in 1995 during the Balkan wars, a court in The Hague ruled on Wednesday.
Dutch soldiers allowed Serb forces to take away up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in what later emerged as the biggest massacre since the World War II.
The court ruled that only the UN can be held accountable for the action of the soldiers who were operating on behalf of the UN mission in Bosnia.
The court heard two cases brought by relatives of Bosnian Muslims killed after they were taken from Srebrenica. The court rejected the compensation claims of Hasan Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic. They are to appeal against the ruling.
The relatives bringing the cases accuse the Netherlands of failing in its duty and acting unlawfully by turning away Rizo Mustafic and the brothers and parents of Hasan Nuhanovic from the UN camp in 1995.
Mustafic was an electrician on the compound and claimed to be on the list of personnel who were to be allowed to leave with the Dutch soldiers. As an UN translator, Nuhanovic was on this special status list but was unable to make sure his family was safe.
They claim that the Netherlands broke the international human rights treaty by actively turning away Mustafic and Nuhanovic’s family. According to their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld this contradicted UN instructions to protect civilians.
But the court ruled that the Dutch state could not be held accountable for possible contravention of the human rights treaty by the soldiers, unless the Dutch army or government had broken the UN command structure.
The UN itself is immune from prosecution. Another court case brought by the so-called ‘mothers of Srebrenica’ is currently challenging this immunity.
Zegveld told ANP that it was ‘unprecedented’ that the court did not recognise the suffering of the claimants in any way. ‘Justice is not a science. It is a choice to see it purely in legal terms,’ she is quoted as saying.
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