Dutch State unjustly held accountable for Srebrenica massacre, Advocate General says

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Concrete block at the exit of the compound of the former Dutch battalion ("Dutchbat") headquarters in Potočari near Srebrenica (Image MichaelBueker). (Concrete block at the exit of the compound of the former Dutch battalion ("Dutchbat") headquarters in Potočari near Srebrenica (Image MichaelBueker))

A ruling by the court in The Hague that for the death of around 300 Muslim men after the fall of Bosnian Muslim enclave in 1995, is unjust, the Advocate General said in advice to the Supreme Court. According to the advocate General, Dutch UN battalion Dutchbat can not be held liable for the death of the Muslim men, NU.nl reports.

This case is with the Supreme Court, the highest court in the Netherlands, after the Dutch State appealed against the court in The Hague's ruling that Dutchbat acted unlawfully. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in April. It does not have to follow the advice of the Advocate General, but generally does.

According to the Advocate General, it can not be said that Dutchbat "unjustly acted unlawfully by choosing between two evils: on the one hand facilitating the separation of men and on the other the chaotic course of the evacuation". That would have been different if Dutchbat knew or should have known that the men were "going to their death", the Advocate General said, adding that this was not the case.

In 2017 the court in The Hague ruled that the Dutch State is liable for 30 percent of the damages suffered by the massacred men's families. The State previously called this ruling "incomprehensible". The Advocate General agrees: "The court made an incomprehensible ruling by deciding that Dutchbat acted unlawfully by forming a lock to the buses during the evacuation."

Srebrenica fell on July 11th, 1995. Dutchbat soldiers, working for the UN at the time, were ordered to protect the enclave, but could not stand to 2 thousand Bosnian-Serbs. Between 7 thousand and 8 thousand Muslim men were taken and killed. This case revolved around the death of over 300 men who were the last out of the UN compound. They were taken and slain by Bosnian-Serbs two days after Srebrenica fell.

The court in The Hague ruled that Dutchbat acted unlawfully by continuing to cooperate in the evacuation of the men in the UN compound on July 13th, 1995. The court ruled that the Dutchbat soldiers should have known that the men were in danger - almost all other men taken from in and around the enclave in the days before were killed. The Dutch soldiers should have offered the men the option to stay in the enclave, the court ruled. 

At the same time, the court couldn't say for certain that the men would not have been killed if the Bosnian-Serbs found them hiding in the enclave. The court therefore decided that the State should pay 30 percent of the damages claimed.

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