Dutch high court holds state liable for 3 deaths during Srebrenica massacre

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Netherlands [official website] on Friday ruled [press release] that the state is responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims who were murdered shortly after being forced to leave a UN designated "safe area" controlled by the Dutch Battalion (Dutchbat), during the Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The court found that Dutchbat's conduct could be attributed to the state based on two sets of rules established by the UN International Law Commission [official website]. Further, the court found that Dutchbat acted wrongfully in turning away the refugees because it had jurisdiction to comply with the human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights [official website] and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. The court addressed the state's concern that this decision would have adverse effects on the implementation of peace operations, writing:

This should not, after all, prevent the possibility of judicial assessment in retrospect of the conduct of the relevant troop contingent. The court should indeed make allowance for the fact that this concerns decisions taken under great pressure in a war situation.
In two separate judgments [text, PDF; text, PDF] the court upheld a 2011 decision by the The Hague Appeals court.

Relatives of the victims filed the complaint [JURIST report] with the Dutch prosecutor's office in July 2010 alleging that three Dutch soldiers, operating as UN peacekeepers, were complicit in the commission of war crimes and genocide during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The complaint argued that the soldiers knew the victims would be killed if they were handed over to Serbian troops. Relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre had previously sought justice for the actions of Dutch peacekeeping forces, which they say led to the massacre. In March The Hague Appeals Court upheld the UN's immunity from prosecution by rejecting claims [JURIST reports] brought by relatives of victims of the massacre. The relatives, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, alleged that the Netherlands should be liable for the deaths because Dutch soldiers operating under the UN flag negligently failed to protect civilians by forcing the victims out of "safe area" and turning them over to Bosnian Serbs.

 

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