Dutch state partly responsible for deaths of 350 Muslims in Bosnia war: Court

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SHAFAQNA – A Dutch appeals court has largely upheld a 2014 ruling finding the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men in the Srebrenica massacre.

The Dutch state acted unlawfully in July 1995 as peacekeepers handed the men over knowing the dangers they faced, Judge Gepke Dulek said.

But she ruled it was not 100% liable as many would have been died regardless.

A campaign group for the families has called the ruling “a great injustice”.

Munira Subasic, of the Mothers of Srebrenica group, said: “The Dutch state should take its responsibility for our victims because they could have kept them all safe on the Dutchbat compound.”

The July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys was considered Europe’s worst since World War Two and the case against the Netherlands was brought by 6,000 relatives of those who died.

Some 5,000 Bosniaks had sought shelter from Bosnian Serb soldiers in a UN base, which was being defended by the lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers – known as Dutchbat. Thousands more had sought protection outside the base.

But after the base was overrun, the Muslim men and boys were told by the peacekeepers they would be safe and handed over to the Bosnian Serb army.

In 2014, a Dutch court found the Netherlands liable for the deaths of 350 who had been inside the base, but not those outside.

Three years later, Judge Dulek – sitting at the Hague Appeals Court – backed the decision.

In an hour-long ruling (in Dutch), she concluded that “Dutchbat knew that the men ran a real risk of inhumane treatment or execution”.

The judge added that the Dutchbat soldiers had facilitated the separation of the men and the boys among the refugees.

But she said the Netherlands should only be responsible 30% of damages, as there was a 70% likelihood the male refugees would have been dragged from the safety of the base whatever the peacekeepers had done.

The Dutch government has previously acknowledged its failure to protect the refugees, while the Bosnian Serbs were responsible for the killings.

Separately, some 200 veterans of the Dutch battalion have launched a lawsuit against the Dutch government, claiming around €4.5m ($5m/£3.9m) in compensation for the trauma they suffered.

The precise number of Bosniaks murdered at Srebrenica may never be known. The International Committee of the Red Cross said up to 8,000 had died, while the UN tribunal at The Hague said it was more than 7,000.

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