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Europe
Dutch state in clear on Srebrenica
Bosnian survivors of 1995 massacre fail to hold Dutch UN soldiers responsible for the deaths.
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2008 11:25 GMT
A Bosnian Muslim holds photos of her children who died in the Srebrenica massacre [EPA]

A Dutch court has dismissed an attempt by Bosnian Muslim survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre to hold the Netherlands liable for its troops' failure to protect the so-called safe haven.

Hans Hofhuis, the presiding judge, said in the district court in The Hague on Wednesday: "The claim is denied."

Two groups of plaintiffs had argued that the UN Dutch troops protecting the enclave had handed Muslim refugees over to Bosnian Serb forces, who killed about 8,000 of them.

But the district court found that the soldiers had acted under the flag of the UN and the Dutch state could, therefore, not be held accountable, saying the "actions must be attributed exclusively to the United Nations".

The judgment, at the conclusion of a six-year court case, said: "This means that the state cannot be held responsible for any breach of contract or wrongful act committed by Dutchbat [the Dutch battalion of the United Nations]."

"Neither is the state liable for wrongful action taken by those in charge of the armed forces or members of the national government."

Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his parents and younger brother in the massacre, said the ruling was "without justice".

"I have been betrayed so many times before ... the first time was 13 years ago by the members of Dutchbat," he said, adding that he would appeal against the ruling.

Treaties 'violated'

In the civil suit argued before the court in June, the applicants said Dutchbat troops there to protectthe enclave had handed Muslim refugees over to Bosnian Serb forces.

This action had violated several national laws and international treaties, the plaintiffs said.

The case was initiated by Nuhanovic and Mehida, Damir and Alma Mustafic, the widow and children of another victim, Rizo Mustafic.

They claimed the Dutch state was liable as it exercised full command over the military.

"Dutchbat was professionally charged with the safety of civilians," Liesbeth Zegveld, the plaintiffs' lawyer told the court in June.

"They had a humanitarian assignment, but they acted contrary to their instructions."

Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces which loaded thousands of men and boys on to trucks, executed an estimated 8,000 and buried their bodies into mass graves.

The Srebrenica massacre, Europe's worst atrocity since the second world war, has been termed genocide by the International Court of Justice, which handles disputes between nations, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Source:
Agencies
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