Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 15:50 UK

Wary nations watch Srebrenica case

By Nick Miles
BBC News

The UN Charter says that to help maintain peace and security around the world, all member states should make available the necessary armed forces.

Thirteen years ago in Bosnia, troops from a number of different countries were heeding that call.

Srebrenica refugees with a list of alleged missing people (file image)
The former refugees say the UN was honour bound to protect them

Yet, in 1995, some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed when the enclave of Srebrenica - protected by Dutch troops working under a UN mandate - was taken over by Bosnian Serb forces.

Now, 6,000 survivors of the massacre are bringing a civil case in The Hague against the Dutch state and the UN.

The Dutch troops were working under a Chapter Seven mandate which gave them the right to use force to protect themselves, civilians and aid workers.

Some blamed an over-cumbersome chain of command that meant the Dutch troops did not receive the air support they needed to deter the Bosnian Serb forces.

Whatever way the court in the Hague rules now, that decision-making process is likely to be pored over in an attempt to avoid tragedies like Srebrenica happening again.


Many nations are likely to be watching the court ruling carefully.

If it opens up the way for the Netherlands to be sued it could make governments more wary of committing troops for peacekeeping operations.

That will add to the UN's existing problems.

It has about 100,000 troops on active duty around the world, but even now the UN finds it hard to pull together enough troops from its member states.

At the moment, for example, there is a provision for 26,000 troops to protect civilians in the Sudanese region of Darfur, but only a third of them are in place.

Many nations are wary about committing troops because it may stretch their own armed forces, but there is also reticence because of the actions of some peacekeepers in recent years.

UN peacekeepers have been involved in sexual abuse scandals and there have been allegations that some have sold weapons to rebel soldiers.

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