Dutchbat, the headquarters of the Dutch peacekeeping unit in Srebrenica, Bosnia, where the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim civilians occurred. (Image Sources: Flickr: The Advocacy Project, Martijn Munneke)
One of the worst atrocities to occur in the Bosnian War in the 1990s was the Srebrenica massacre. The 1995 massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs summarily executed more than 8,000 Muslim boys and men, is considered genocide by the Hague and many places around the world. UN peacekeepers led by a contingent of Dutch soldiers were assigned to protect the village of Srebrenica, declared a "safe zone," but failed, allowing Serb soldiers to take over the village and murder its inhabitants. Now, courts have held the Dutch military and government liable for their failure, allowing families of the victims to receive compensation.
The case, handed down by the Dutch supreme court today, involved the matter of three Muslim men: The brother and father of Bosnian interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, and Bosnian electrician Rizo Mustafic. The three men were hiding in a United Nations compound near Srebrenica, along with thousands of other residents, as the Serb army known VRS overran the village. Dutch peacekeepers assigned to the compound, known as Dutchbat threw out the three men, even though Mustafic was employed by the UN, along with other residents after being surrounded and outnumbered by Serb forces. Eventually, Serb soldiers separated the men and boys from the fleeing crowd, including the three men, and executed them.
The Dutch supreme court ruled that, due to the fact that UN commanders had given up control of their peacekeepers at the time, the actions of the peacekeepers in Srebrenica were under the jurisdiction of the Dutch military and government. Furthermore, because Dutchbat was aware of Serb abuse against Muslim men and boys prior to the killing, they were aware that a massacre was inevitable, and yet did nothing to stop it.
The ruling means that the Dutch government is liable to pay the families of the three Srebrenica victims. It also means that the families of other Srebrenica victims are able to sue the Dutch government for compensation for their complicity in the massacre. Given that the public in the Netherlands have shamed the soldiers involved in Srebrenica for being complicit in the massacre, it is likely that the Dutch government is likely to face a costly period of repatriations.