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Europe
Dutch to probe Srebrenica massacre
UN soldiers may face criminal charges for "handing over" Muslims to Serb army.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2010 19:37 GMT
Dutch officers allegedly knew the transfer of victims would lead to their deaths [GALLO/GETTY]

The Netherlands says it will look into whether Dutch UN soldiers should face criminal charges over the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

In a statement on Friday, the Dutch public prosecutor's office said it would decide whether to hold a full-fledged criminal investigation after completing initial inquiries.

About 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica after Bosnian Serb forces overran the enclave where Dutch peacekeeping soldiers were stationed to protect civilians.

The Netherlands has always said that its troops were abandoned by the UN, which provided them no air support in the UN-designated "safe area".

Investigation

The statement of the prosecutor's office said victims' relatives last month requested an investigation into the massacre, adding a probe would take several months to complete.

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Liesbeth Zegveld, a Dutch lawyer, said that on behalf of the victims' relatives she had requested an investigation into the actions of three Dutch military commanders, including Thom Karremans, commander of the Dutch troops, and his deputy.

"The Dutch troops handed over their (Bosnian Muslim) family members on 13 July 1995 to the Bosnian Serb enemy, who later killed them," Zegveld said, adding the victims had fled to the Dutch UN base to seek protection from Serb forces.

She said the three officers knew the transfer of the victims to the Bosnian Serbs would lead to their deaths and that "this can be qualified as genocide and/or war crimes and/or murder".

Alexander Knoops, a professor of international criminal law at Utrecht University, said he is not certain whether the prosecutor would initiate a criminal investigation.

"The legal criteria for allegedly aiding and abetting genocide seem not fulfilled here. The mere fact that civilians were handed over to the Bosnian Serbs is not sufficient for criminal liability," the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Mladic at large

Meanwhile, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor has vowed not give up the hunt for former Bosnian military chief, Ratko Mladic.

He is wanted for genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.

Mladic has been on the run for more than 15 years, and is believed to be hiding in Serbia.

Prosecutor Vukcevic says he will "flush Mladic out of his hole" and will not give up until he is arrested.

In a case brought by Bosnia, the tribunal ruled in 2007 the massacre at Srebrenica constituted genocide as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s by rival Serb, Croat and Bosnian Muslim forces.

Lawyers representing 6,000 surviving relatives of the Srebrenica victims have mounted several legal challenges in Dutch courts against the Dutch state and the UN for failing to prevent the Srebrenica killings.

In March, a Dutch civil court rejected a challenge to UN immunity, dealing a blow to efforts to hold the world body accountable for the massacre in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Source:
Agencies
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