Bosnian Muslim women cry near the coffin of a relative, one
of the 175 coffins of newly identified victims from the
1995 Srebrenica massacre, in Potocari Memorial Centre, near
Srebrenica. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
The Netherlands is liable for about 300 of the more than
8000 deaths in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, a Dutch court has
ruled, pinning some of the blame for Europe's worst massacre
since World War 2 on the Dutch state.
A district court in The Hague said Dutch peacekeepers in
Srebrenica, a Bosnian Muslim enclave in Bosnian Serb-held
territory, could have known that the 300 men who had sought
refuge in their base in the village of Potocari would be
murdered if deported from the Dutch compound.
The court said the Netherlands was not liable for the deaths
of those who had fled into the forests surrounding
Srebrenica, where many of the men and boys were later buried
in mass graves.
The ruling could set a precedent with implications for future
peacekeeping deployments by the Netherlands or other
During the Bosnian war, the Dutch battalion Dutchbat had been
deployed to protect Srebrenica, which had been designated a
safe haven by the United Nations, but surrendered to the much
larger Bosnian Serb army commanded by Ratko Mladic, who is on
trial for war crimes at an international court in The Hague.
The case was brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group
representing surviving relatives of the victims. They had
failed in their bid to have a court find the United Nations
responsible for the massacre.
"At the moment that the men were sent away, Dutchbat knew or
should have known that the genocide was taking place and
therefore there was a serious risk that those men would be
killed," said judge Peter Blok.
The failure of Dutch soldiers to protect the Muslim men and
boys of Srebrenica has left a deep scar in Dutch politics,
contributing to the resignation of the Dutch government in
The three-year Bosnian war, in which at least 100,000 people
were killed, was the bloodiest of a series of conflicts that
accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.