A court has cleared the Netherlands of liability in the deaths of most of the 8,000 Bosnian Muslims slain in the Srebrenica massacre, but says it has to compensate the families of more than 300 men.
The court ruled that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of those 300 victims in the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.
The ruling on Wednesday came after relatives of the victims launched a lawsuit accusing Dutch UN soldiers of failing to protect the men and boys killed.
“The state is liable for the loss suffered by relatives of the men who were deported by the Bosnian Serbs from the Dutchbat (Dutch battalion) compound in Potocari in the afternoon of 13 July, 1995,” the court said.
One of the plaintiffs, Munira Subasic – who lost her son and husband when Bosnian Serbs seized Srebrenica in July 1995 – said the verdict would show to the massacre survivors if “Europe achieved the necessary level of humanity to meet the requirements of justice and law.”
“We know that the law is on our side. We know what happened here (in Srebrenica) and we know that it happened under (UN) protection and flag, before the eyes of the whole world,” Subasic said, speaking before the ruling.
“We will see what Dutch justice is like, we have experienced it in 1995 and now we will see if they will show regret and accept their responsibility,” she added.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica, which had been besieged by Serb forces throughout the war, a UN-protected safe area for civilians.
A number or Muslim Bosnians flocked there for protection, but in July 1995, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic overran the enclave.
The outnumbered Dutch UN soldiers never fired a shot.
They watched as Mladic’s troops rounded up the entire population of Srebrenica, expelled the women, children and elderly and executed about 8,000 boys and men over the following few days.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, has ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide.
It has been described by former Secretary General Kofi Annan as the darkest page in UN history.
The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after the National War Documentation Institute blamed the debacle on Dutch authorities and the UN for sending lightly armed and under-prepared forces into the mission and refusing to answer the commanders’ call for air support.