Responsibility has been laid with the Netherlands for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre by soldiers under Bosnian Serb command. The Dutch Supreme Court held the state accountable for the actions of Dutch troops who made these victims leave a UN compound.
The Court said that international law allows conduct to be attributed not only to the United Nations in charge of a peace mission, but also to the state whose control extends to conduct.
Survivors of the massacre who were present when the head judge spoke cried and embraced. The case was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, who worked as a UN translator in the Balkan wars. Dutch forces would not allow his relatives to stay on the base in question. The court ruled on the deaths of his younger brother, father and another man. His mother was also killed but her case was dropped.
Nuhanovic said: “This is one legal battle won. It lasted very long, ten years. It took my time and my health, but we came to the end.”
Liesbeth Zegveld, the Dutch lawyer who represented the victims, said the decision had important implications. This refers to countries’ willingness to participate in foreign military operations – where so much can go wrong.
“The most important conclusion is that the UN flag does not give you immunity as a state or as an individual soldier.”
Dutch peacekeepers under the UN flag were in charge of a so-called “safe area” when Bosnian Serb forces overran it in 1995 and killed 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Srebrenica was Europe’s worst massacre since World War Two.