UN peacekeepers allowed Srebrenica genocide

A court in the Netherlands ruled on Wednesday that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 victims of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst ethnically motivated mass murder in Europe since World War II. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/17/world/europe/court-finds-netherlands-responsible-for-srebrenica-deaths.html?ref=world
“The state is liable for the loss suffered by relatives of the men who were deported by the Bosnian Serbs” and then massacred by them in July 1995, the court was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
For relatives of the 300 victims, who were among the roughly 8,000 Muslim men and boys massacred at Srebrenica, the verdict may bring a sense of relief and justice. They have sought for nearly two decades to bring to account Dutch peacekeepers who were stationed near Srebrenica under a United Nations mandate and who failed to protect Bosnian Muslims from the raiding Bosnian Serb forces when the town fell to them. But the verdict was likely to fall short of satisfying the relatives of thousands of other victims, who so far have not been compensated.
The case centers on the events of July 1995, when Bosnian Serb forces under the command of Gen. Ratko Mladic overwhelmed a group of 400 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers before taking control of a safe area around Srebrenica. Men and boys were then rounded up and led to fields where they were shot with their hands bound. Their bodies were later buried in mass graves, as the Bosnian Serb
forces sought to cover up the crime. The remains of victims are still being discovered nearly two decades later.
After the town fell on July 11, about 30,000 people sought refuge in the area around the peacekeepers’ base, and some 5,000 refugees were allowed to stay within the United Nations compound. But the Dutch soldiers, overwhelmed and outnumbered by the Bosnian Serb forces, decided not to evacuate the refugees. Instead, some ended up in the hands of the Bosnian Serb forces and were killed.
Referring to Dutchbat, the name of the Dutch force under the control of the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia, the court ruled that the peacekeepers shared in the responsibility for the deaths of the 300 men and boys. The force “should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victim of genocide and that it can be said with sufficient certainty that, had the Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive,” the court said, according to Agence France-Presse. But the ruling cleared the Dutch peacekeepers of being liable for the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims who fled to the surrounding area near the United Nations compound and were later found by the Bosnian Serb forces and killed.
The decision on Wednesday follows a seminal ruling last year by the Dutch Supreme Court that found the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men because Dutch peacekeepers had wrongfully ordered them to leave the United Nations compound during the 1995 massacre. It was the first time a government had been held liable for the actions of peacekeepers operating with a United Nations mandate.
In that case, the court dismissed arguments by the Dutch government that holding forces accountable for events during peacekeeping activities could undermine future United Nations operations and make countries more reticent about supplying troops who could be made liable for their actions.
The Dutch Supreme Court, which was upholding a 2011 decision by appeals court judges, said that even though United Nations commanders were in charge of the peace mission at Srebrenica, in the days after the Bosnian Serb takeover, the Dutch authorities in The Hague had “effective control” over the troops and therefore shared liability.
Relatives of the victims in Wednesday’s case are expected to receive some compensation from the Dutch state. In April, the Dutch government agreed to pay 20,000 euros, or about $27,000, to relatives of the three Bosnian men who had been killed.
Mr. Mladic, who is accused of orchestrating the massacre at Srebrenica, was arrested in 2011 and is on trial at the United Nations war crimes court in The Hague on genocide charges. In addition to the massacre at Srebrenica, Mr. Mladic is also accused of war crimes during the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died. He says he is innocent of the charges.
Relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre have long expressed anger at the West’s inaction during the killings, with particular ire directed against the Dutch, whom they argue should have done more to protect Bosnian Muslims from raiding Bosnian Serb troops, some of whom stole the helmets and vehicles of peacekeepers to trick and capture those trying to escape.
The verdict came at an emotional time for relatives of the victims, days after thousands of people gathered in Bosnia to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the massacre.
Srecko Latal, a political analyst who until recently worked with the nonprofit International Crisis Group in Sarajevo, said by phone that the verdict was important for showing that peacekeepers had both a moral and legal responsibility to protect civilians. But he said it was unlikely to heal the wounds in Bosnia, an ethnically divided country still reeling from the war. “This verdict is a symbolic gesture that will bring comfort to some victims’ relatives, but it is only a small number who are being compensated,” he said. “It’s a drop in the bucket.”

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