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Court Says Dutch Not To Blame For Srebrenica Deaths

Hasan Nuhanovic
THE HAGUE (Reuters) -- A Dutch court has thrown out claims from survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that Dutch UN troops guarding the Bosnian town allowed Bosnian Serb forces to murder their relatives.

The case was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic and another family who lost relatives during the massacre in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. They accuse the Dutch state of negligence over its troops' role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The Dutch state said in its defense that the actions of its soldiers should not be attributed to the Netherlands but rather to the United Nations.

The court agreed with this view and said in its ruling that the behavior of the Dutch troops should be assessed in the context of the UN operation they formed part of.

Nuhanovic, a UN interpreter who launched his case in 2002, said his father, mother, and younger brother were killed after they were expelled from the town's Dutch military base. He says he was allowed to stay because he had a UN identity card.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, representing Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician in the UN force's Dutch battalion who also died in the massacre, said they would appeal against the ruling although she expected their chances to be small.

"This case is too political," she said.

Srebrenica was a UN safe haven guarded by a Dutch Army unit serving as part of a United Nations force but Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic overran it on July 11, 1995.

The Netherlands has said its troops were abandoned by the UN, which gave them no air support. The families' lawyers have said public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the UN blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by "friendly fire."

The Dutch government led by Wim Kok resigned in 2002 after a report on the massacre blamed politicians for sending the Dutch UN troops on an impossible mission.

Mladic, indicted for genocide over Srebrenica by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is still at large but former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was captured in Belgrade in July and is now awaiting trial.

In a separate suit against the Dutch state and the United Nations filed by about 6,000 relatives of the Srebrenica victims, a Dutch court ruled the UN was immune to legal claims.