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Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Ruling That Netherlands Was Partly Liable For Srebrenica Deaths


Dutch UN peacekeepers sit on top of an armored personnel carrier while Muslim refugees from Srebrenica gather in the village of Potocari, just north of Srebrenica, on July 13, 1995.

The Dutch Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling that found the Netherlands partly liable for the deaths of 350 Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995 during the Bosnian War.

The Netherlands’ highest court said on July 19 that Dutch United Nations peacekeepers evacuated the men from their military base near Srebrenica on July 13, 1995, despite knowing that they "were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered" by Bosnian Serb forces.

Dutch peacekeepers "acted unlawfully in the evacuation of 350 men," the court found. "They took away the chance of the men to stay out of the hands of the Bosnian Serbs."

Judge Kees Streefkerk said "the state did act wrongfully" and told relatives of the dead they can now claim compensation from the Dutch government.

The ruling was the latest in a long-running legal battle by a group of relatives known as The Mothers of Srebrenica to hold the Dutch government liable for the deaths of their family members.

"They are responsible, regardless of how much they think they're not," Munira Subasic, the head of the group, told RFE/RL. "There's no eraser they can use to delete their responsibility."

Subasic said the group would take the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Rulings of the ICJ, the United Nations' top court, are binding, although it does not have the power to enforce them.

Altogether, more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic in Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II.

Many of the victims had fled to the UN-declared "safe zone" in Srebrenica, only to find the outnumbered Dutch troops there unable to defend them.

The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees, but said the peacekeepers had been on "mission impossible."

The original verdict in 2014 ruled that Dutch soldiers should have known the men would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if they were forced to leave the base.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters