Srebrenica massacre: Dutch government ‘partially liable’ for murder of 300 Muslim men, court finds

Court finds state must compensate relatives of victims handed over by Dutch UN peacekeepers

The Independent Online

A court has ruled that the Dutch government is partially liable for the deaths of around 300 Muslim men killed in the Srebrenica massacre.

The Hague court of appeal’s findings largely upheld a civil court judgment from 2014, which found the state was liable for the murder of Bosniak Muslims who were turned to Bosnian Serb troops by Dutch UN peacekeepers.

Presiding judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said that Dutch soldiers “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”.

Dutch soldiers of a Dutchbat convoy chatting with Bosnian fighters in Vares, Bosnia, in March 1994 (AFP/Getty)

“By having the men leave the compound unreservedly, they were deprived of a chance of survival,” he added.

In a departure from an earlier ruling, the court said the Netherlands should pay only 30 per cent of damages to victims’ families, after estimating odds of 70 per cent that the victims would have been dragged from the base and killed regardless of what action Dutch soldiers took.

The amount of damages will be determined in a separate hearing unless the victims and the state can reach a settlement.

The court rejected a claim from the relatives of other Srebrenica victims, who argued that Dutch government should also be held responsible for the protection of thousands more Muslims who had gathered outside the military base.

Judges have acquitted Netherlands of responsibility for more than 7,000 other victims killed in the Srebrenica area.

“This is a great injustice,” said Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica group. “The Dutch state should take its responsibility for our victims because they could have kept them all safe on the Dutchbat [Dutch battalions’] compound.”

Their lawyer, Marco Gerritsen, called the court’s assessment of the men’s chances of survival “very arbitrary” and said he was looking at the possibility of appealing to the Dutch Supreme Court.

The case is the first time a country has been held liable for the actions of peacekeeping forces operating under a UN mandate.

The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect refugees, although the Netherlands maintains that the Bosnian Serbs, not Dutch troops, bear responsibility for the killings.

Around 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in a genocidal campaign by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 massacre – the worst mass murder in Europe since the Second World War.

Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, had been formally designated a “safe area” by the UN Security Council two years before, sparking condemnation of its strategy.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia concluded that the killings at Srebrenica, compounded by the mass expulsion of Bosniak civilians, amounted to genocide and pinned principal responsibility on senior officers in the Bosnian Serb army.

The UN and its Western supporters have accepted a portion of responsibility for failing to protect men, women and children uprooted from their homes in the Bosnian War.

Srebrenica was targeted by Bosnian Serb forces as part of efforts to annex the territory and expel Bosniak civilians, who were subjected to a siege and food embargoes ahead of the massacre.

Thousands march to remember Srebrenica victims

A military advance on the town started in July 1995, seeing Bosnian Serb forces burning Bosniak homes as they advanced, sending thousands of civilians fleeing Srebrenica for the nearby village of Potocari, where around 200 Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

Some of the Dutch surrendered, while others withdrew and are not known to have fired on the advancing Bosnian Serb forces headed by Ratko Mladic, who told journalists the time had come to “take revenge on the Muslims”.

On the night of 11 July, more than 10,000 Bosniak men set off from Srebrenica through dense forest in an attempt to reach safety, but were found the following morning by Bosnian Serb officers who made false promises of security to encourage the men to surrender.

Thousands surrendered or were captured, while others were forced out of Potocari by a campaign of murder and rape as women and children were transported back to Bosniak territory on buses.

Men and boys were taken to holding sites and executed en masse over several days, with estimates of the final death toll ranging between 7,000 and more than 8,000.

Their bodies were dumped in mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide evidence of the atrocity.

A UN criminal tribunal indicted more than 20 people for their involvement, including Bosnian Serb commanders, while Mladic was caught in 2011 and is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Additional reporting by agencies

Kuala Lumpur Tribunal finds Israel Guilty of Crimes against Humanity, Genocide

In-depth Report: 


GR Editor’s Note

The proceedings directed against the State of Israel was led by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) against the State of Israel

Members of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) are: Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (Chairman), Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Dr. Denis Halliday, Mr. Musa Ismail, Dr. Zulaiha Ismail, Dr. Yaacob Merican, Dr.  Hans von Sponeck.

Working in liaison with their Malaysian counterparts, Commissioners Dr. Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization were present in Kuala Lumpur throughout the proceedings. 

This important judicial process has received very little coverage in the Western media.  Global Research will be publishing several reports following this historic  judgment against the State of Israel.

Michel Chossudovsky, Kuala Lumpur, November 25, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) today found former Israeli army general Amos Yaron and the state of Israel guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide stemming from the massacre of Palestinians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

KLWCT president Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus, who headed a seven-member panel, said the tribunal was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that both the defendants were guilty as charged.

The other judges were Tunku Sofiah Jewa, Prof Salleh Buang, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Datuk Saari Yusof, John Philpot and Tunku Intan Mainura.

Reading out the judgment for almost three hours, Lamin said the tribunal ordered that reparations commensurate with the irreparable harm and injury, pain and suffering undergone by the complainant, war crime victims be paid to them.

“While it’s constantly mindful of its stature as merely a tribunal of conscience with no real power or enforcement, this tribunal finds that witnesses in this case are entitled ex justitia to the payment or reparations by the two convicted parties,” he said.

Lamin said it was hoped that armed with the tribunal’s findings, the witnesses who were also the victims in the case, would, in the near future, find a state or an international judicial entity able and willing to exercise jurisdiction to enforce the tribunal’s verdict against the two convicted parties.

The tribunal also ordered that its award of reparations should be submitted to the War Crimes Commission to faciliate the determination and collection of reparations by the complainant war crime victims.

Lamin noted that the tribunal was fully aware that its verdict was merely declaratory in nature and had no power of enforcement.

“What we can do…is to recommend to the KLWCT to submit this finding of conviction by the tribunal, together with the record of these proceedings, to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations (UN) and the UN Security Council,” said the judge.

He also said the tribunal recommended that the names of the two convicted parties be entered and included in the commissions’s Registry of War Criminals and be publicised, accordingly.

Yaron was charged over his direct involvement in his capacity as the commanding general in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. This was the first time that Yaron had been charged for war crimes.

The second charge was against the state of Israel for the crime of genocide and war crimes on the Palestinians.

The charges were the result of complaints received by KLWCT from victims from Palestine (Gaza and West Bank) and the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon last year.

During the six-day trial, the tribunal heard 11 prosecution witnesses, including Palestinians from both Muslim and Christian descent, as well as Malaysian surgeon Dr Ang Swee Chai who served at the camp at the time of the massacre.

Six of the witnesses testified at the KLWCT while the other five gave evidence through Skype.

Lead prosecutor Prof Gurdial S. Nijar described the verdict as “significant” as this marked the first time that the Israel state had been found guilty of genocide.

He said today’s judgment would be submitted to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, UN and the UN Security Council for further action.

He added that the judgment would also be publicised and circulated to governments worldwide to allow all states to exercise their jurisdiction on genocide. —

Baruch Goldstein

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