The Dutch state is responsible for the death of three Muslim men during the siege of Srebrenica during the Yugoslavia war in 1995, the Dutch supreme court said on Friday.
After the fall of the enclave, effective control passed from the United Nations to the Dutch army, which was the responsibility of the Dutch state, the court said in its long-awaited ruling.
Relatives of the three men, who were murdered after the Dutch army sent them out of the compound, have been involved in a legal campaign since 2002.
The Hague district court ruled in July 2011 the Dutch state can be held responsible for the deaths but the state decided to take that decision to the supreme court. It says the UN was responsible for Srebrenica at the time.
Interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic and the descendents of electrician Rizo Mustafic say Dutch soldiers serving under the UN flag in the Muslim enclave did not do all they could to protect their relatives from the Bosnian Serb army.
Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was overrun.
A spokesman for the defence ministry said the ruling would be studied carefully, but declined to comment further.
The verdict clears the way for the relatives to claim damages from the Dutch state.
‘We have fought for this for eight years. The supreme court is clear: whoever takes the decision is responsible,’ said Liesbeth Zegveld, who represented the relatives.
Hatidza Mehmedovic of the lobby group Mothers of Srebrenica, said she was surprised by the verdict. ‘It is good that the Netherlands is taking responsibility,’ she said. ‘But it will not bring these loved ones back.’
Read the court statement (in English)
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