Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dutch Ordered to Compensate three Srebrenica Massacre Relatives from Bosnia

Dutch Ordered to Compensate Srebrenica Massacre Relatives

In a surprise verdict, a Hague court has ordered the Netherlands to compensate relatives of three victims of the 1995 massacre in the town – potentially opening the way for other compensation claims.
The Dutch state can be held responsible for the death of three men who were killed in the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, one of whom worked for the Dutch army in Bosnia, The Hague district court ruled on Tuesday.

The court ordered the Dutch state to compensate the relatives of the three, a ruling that clears the way for compensation payments to be made to families of other victims.

Interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic and the family of electrician Rizo Mustafic say Dutch soldiers serving under the UN flag in the UN protected Bosniak [Muslim] enclave did not do all they could to protect their relatives from the Bosnian Serb army.

They were among thousands who took shelter in the UN compound as Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on 11 July 1995.
“The court ruled that the Dutch state is responsible for the death of these men because Dutchbat should not have handed them over” [to the Serbs],” a spokeswoman for the court said.

Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was over-run.

The court said Dutch soldiers, known as Dutchbat, should not have sent the electrician and the brother of the interpreter out of the compound and they should also have prevented the interpreter’s father from following his son. All three men were later killed.

The court said Dutchbat had been witness to many incidents in which Bosniaks who came into Bosnian Serb hands were mistreated and killed, and so must have been aware of the risk facing the three men if they were sent away.

Although Dutchbat was working under UN auspices, they were still responsible for the men’s fate, the court said. This was because the Dutch government had “effective control” over the troops, the court said.
A lower court ruled earlier that the Netherlands was not responsible for the deaths because the soldiers were operating under the UN flag.

The UN itself is immune from prosecution. But another court case, brought by the so-called “Mothers of Srebrenica”, an association of relatives of the dead and missing, is currently challenging this immunity.

The Dutch defence ministry said it would study the ruling carefully before deciding what steps to take.

Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leader held responsible for the massacre, is currently on trial for genocide and other grave crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.

Mladic berated judges Monday, refusing to enter a plea on 11 charges against him, before the presiding judge, Alphons Orie, formally entered not guilty pleas for the 69-year-old. Mladic was arrested in May after 16 years on the run. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

In 2002, the Dutch government collapsed after an investigation by the National War Documentation Institute blamed them and the UN for sending ill-equipped Dutch soldiers on an impossible mission.

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