A court at The Hague has ruled that Dutch peacekeepers under the command of the United Nations were partly responsible for the massacre of at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbian troops at Srebrenica in 1996.
The killings, which have been recognised as a genocide, took place as thousands of Muslims fled to Srebrenica’s UN-designated safe zone and to a nearby Dutch UN peacekeeper base. Peacekeepers subsequently expelled them and handed them to Serbian soldiers.
The court ruling upheld a 2014 judgment that found the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of the men and boys, who were systematically separated from women in the town, before being bound and shot.
Judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said the peacekeepers “knew or should have known that the men were not only being screened … but were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution … by having the men leave the compound unreservedly, they were deprived of a chance of survival”.
“All arguments weighed against each other, the court puts the chance that the men would have escaped inhumane treatment and execution by the Bosnian Serbs if they could have stayed at the United Nations compound at 30 percent,” said the ruling.
“The Dutch state deprived them of this possibility.”
The ruling has however caused controversy, with a lawyer for the advocacy group Mothers of Srebrenica expressing disappointment at the judgement.
“It’s rather mysterious how they arrived at 30 percent,” said Simon van der Sluijs. “That’s based on a number of uncertainties: Were the Bosnian Serbs prepared to use violence against the compound? If they had used violence, would the people in the compound have survived?”