Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:03 UK

Dutch 'not liable' for Srebrenica

Rows of caskets containing the remains of victims of the Srebrenica massacre (file image)
Some 8,000 Muslim civilians were killed in the Srebrenica massacre

A group of Bosniak Muslims has failed to win compensation from the Netherlands over the deaths of their relatives in Srebrenica in 1995.

Dutch troops in Srebrenica had been tasked with protecting the thousands of Bosniak Muslim men and boys eventually massacred by Serb forces.

A Dutch court said the country was not liable for the deaths as its troops had been operating under a UN mandate.

The claimants said the Dutch neglected their duty to locals they had employed.

The claim was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, an interpreter for the Dutch UN troops who lost his mother, brother and father in the massacre, and by the relatives of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician killed at Srebrenica.


Concluding a six-year case, the Hague District Court said on Wednesday that the Dutch government could not be deemed responsible as its peacekeepers in Bosnia had been operating under UN command.

The only person that wasn't crying was my brother. He was 22 and very proud
Hasan Nuhanovic
Former UN interpreter

"The state cannot be held responsible for any breach of contract or wrongful act committed by Dutchbat [the Dutch military]," the ruling said.

"Neither is the state liable for wrongful action taken by those in charge of the armed forces or members of the national government."

Responding to the verdict, Mr Nuhanovic said: "I have been betrayed so many times before ... the first time was 13 years ago by the members of Dutchbat."

In June he had told the court of how he was ordered by the Dutch troops to tell his family they had to leave the safety of the UN compound in Srebrenica.

"My mother was crying, I was crying. The only person that wasn't crying was my brother. He was 22 and very proud. 'Hasan, don't beg them for my life any more," Mr Nuhanovic had said.

'Safe haven'

In a separate case earlier this year, a Dutch court ruled that a group known as the Mothers of Srebrenica could not claim compensation against the UN because the world body enjoys immunity from prosecution.

The group, which represents some 6,000 survivors of the massacre, had argued that the UN was responsible for the failure of its peacekeeping force to keep the enclave safe.

Srebrenica was a so-called UN safe haven under the protection of Dutch peacekeepers when, in 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overran the town, killing some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys.

The Bosniak people, most of whom are Muslims, first settled in Bosnia in the Middle Ages.

The Srebrenica massacre has been established as an act of genocide by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

In 2002, the Dutch cabinet led by Wim Kok resigned following a report into the massacre which said politicians had sent the Dutch peacekeepers on an impossible mission.

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