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Dutch Appeals Court Says State Partially Liable In 300 Srebrenica Deaths

Bosnian women from the Mothers Of Srebrenica group talk to the press in The Hague after the verdict on June 27.
Bosnian women from the Mothers Of Srebrenica group talk to the press in The Hague after the verdict on June 27.

A Dutch appeals court has ruled that the state was partially liable in the deaths of some 300 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The ruling by The Hague Appeals Court on June 27 largely upheld another court's 2014 judgment that said the state was liable in the deaths of the Bosnian Muslim men who were expelled from a Dutch UN base in July 1995 and subsequently killed by the surrounding Bosnian Serb troops.

Both the relatives, who seek Dutch responsibility for all Srebrenica victims, and the Dutch government appealed the ruling.

The appeals court’s presiding judge, Gepke Dulek, said that because Dutch soldiers sent the men off the Dutch compound along with other refugees seeking shelter there, "they were deprived of the chance of survival."

The 300 men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic at Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War II.

The UN's International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that the massacre in the Srebrenica enclave was a genocide perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces against the Muslims.

The 2014 ruling also provided for compensation for the relatives of the 300 victims.

The Hague Civil Court ruled in 2014 that Dutch peacekeepers could have known that the 300 men seeking refuge at their base in the village of Potocari would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if forced to leave.

However, in a departure from the earlier ruling, the appeals court said the Netherlands should pay only 30 percent of damages, as it estimated the odds at 70 percent that the victims would have been dragged from the base and killed regardless of what the Dutch soldiers did.

The court did not say at the time how much compensation the families should receive.

The amount of damages is determined in a separate procedure unless the victims and the state can reach a settlement.

In the 2014 trial, which was launched by relatives of the victims under the name Mothers Of Srebrenica, the Dutch state was cleared over the deaths of more than 7,000 other men killed in and around Srebrenica. That decision was upheld by the appeals court on June 27.

The ruling is seen as exceptional as the United Nations enjoys immunity from prosecution.

The government of Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees. However, the Netherlands says the Bosnian Serbs, not Dutch troops, bear responsibility for the killings.

Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serbs, is on trial for genocide, with a verdict expected later this year.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and the BBC
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