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'Mothers Of Srebrenica' Sue Netherlands In European Court of Human Rights

A woman prays near the graves of victims of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (file photo)
A woman prays near the graves of victims of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (file photo)

Relatives of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre have filed a lawsuit against the Netherlands at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

The lawsuit, which challenges a July ruling of the Dutch Supreme Court, is the latest development 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 350 Bosnian Muslim men.

"The Mothers of Srebenica have today filed a case against the Dutch state at the ECHR in Strasbourg," lawyers Marco Gerritsen Simon van der Sluijs said in a statement, accusing the Dutch state of "not taking sufficient measures to protect" the population.

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 peacekeepers there unable to defend them.

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled on July 19 that Dutch UN peacekeepers "acted unlawfully" when they evacuated the men from their military base near Srebrenica on July 13, 1995, handing them over to the Bosnian Serb forces despite knowing that they "were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered."

However, the Supreme Court established that the Netherlands bore "very limited" responsibility and had only 10 percent liability for the deaths of the 350 men, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

The Supreme Court's ruling drastically reduced the previous figure of 30 percent liability set by an appeals court in 2017.

Lawyers for the Mothers of Srebrenica said that was a "totally arbitrary decision."

"According to the Supreme Court, these men would probably have been killed whatever happened, even if they had been authorized to remain in the compound. There was however no factual debate about their chances of survival," the lawyers for the victims' group wrote on January 20.

"That violates article 6 of the ECHR which stipulates the right to a fair trial."

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.

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

With reporting by AFP and BBC

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