THE HAGUE – The Dutch Supreme Court upheld on Friday a ruling that found the Netherlands partially responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosnian Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The court said the Dutch state had 10 percent liability as it considered this to be the probability that Dutch peacekeeping forces deployed to the area by the United Nations had of preventing the deaths of the 350 Muslim men in question.
It added that the peacekeepers had evacuated Bosnian Muslim men from their military base despite knowing they were at risk of “being abused and murdered.”
The Netherlands’ highest court, however, acknowledged that the advancing Bosnian Serb troops, at the time led by convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, would likely have found the Muslim men taking refuge in the Dutchbat base but insisted that Dutch blue helmets should nonetheless have offered them shelter.
The case was brought by a group of victims’ relatives called Mothers of Srebrenica.
Kada Hotic, a member group whose husband, sons and fifty other relatives were killed in the massacre, said she was partially accepting of the ruling because it showed the Dutch government acknowledging some responsibility but added that the percentage of liability did not go far enough.
She said: “We were protected by the UN, Srebrenica and Zepa were the safe zones, these two places, where there were 60,000 people.
“We had no arms to confront the enemy and they protected us, guaranteed our survival, our belongings, the town. And us, we suffered genocide under the banner of the UN and then they say they are not responsible.”
She said they would challenge the ruling at a higher level.
The group’s lawyer, Simon van der Sluijs, also said he was satisfied with the ruling but that it was a pity that the Supreme Court ruled the State responsible for only 10 percent of damage done.
“They have suffered of course because of what the Bosnian Serbs did but they have also suffered because they were not protected by Dutchbat and that was the first job of Dutchbat, to protect the population, and they failed in a miserable way,” he told EFE.
Mothers of Srebrenica had accused the Dutch government of being wholly responsible for the events leading up to the war crime.
The court ruled the victims’ relatives could claim 10 percent compensation from the Dutch government.
Toon Keisterkamp, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court said judges had landed on the 10 percent liability because they believed that even if the Bosnian Muslims taking shelter in the compound were allowed to stay, there was roughly a 10 percent chance the Bosnian Serb troops would have found them.
The 350 men were among 5,000 evacuated from the military base by Dutch peacekeepers.
The Supreme Court’s decision lowers the 30 percent liability previously ruled by a regional court and brings an end to a years-long legal battle pursued by the mothers and widows of the murdered Bosnian men.
Bosnian Serb forces killed around 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
The soldiers dumped the bodies into mass graves.
The remains of more than 1,000 victims of Srebrenica are still unaccounted for.
Mladic, a former military commander who was in charge of the Serb troops who carried out the massacre, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide.
Other prominent Serbian politicians Radovan Karadzic, the political leader of Bosnian Serbs, and Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia, were also arrested and faced criminal prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for crimes linked to Srebrenica.
The Bosnian War raged between 1992-95 as Yugoslavia disintegrated.
There were around 30,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town at the time of the massacre.
The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after a report found it could have done more to prevent the massacre.