The Dutch state is partially responsible for the death of 300 Bosnian Muslims during the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. That is the landmark verdict taken by a civil court in The Hague, in light of a lawsuit brought by relatives of those killed in the bloodshed.
Dutch peacekeepers were charged with safeguarding the area, originally declared a safe zone from fighting, but have now been found liable for the decision to hand over 300 people who sought refuge at a UN camp.
Larissa Elwin, the judge presiding over the case, explained the verdict: “Dutch peackeepers acted unlawfully by cooperating with the deportation by the Bosnian Serbs. It can be said with sufficient certainty that the 300 men who where taken would have lived if the Dutch peacekeepers had acted properly.”
Over 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serbs in the massacre. But the court did not hold Dutch forces responsible for the majority of those deaths, saying that compensation must be paid only to families of those who were handed over to advancing Bosnian Serbs.
Nonetheless the decision’s ramifications are likely to be wide ranging.
Nicholas Whyte, director of the Independent Diplomat, a diplomat advisory group, said the ruling will likely impact future peacekeeping operations: “This is very interesting because it means that in future no international peacekeeper will be able to operate outside the law. Everybody must be aware of the legal consequences of their acts and also of the things that they have failed to do.”
The so-called Mothers of Srebrenica, who brought the case to the courts, have vowed to fight on. They want responsibility to be taken for the thousands who were massacred in the area.