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Srebrenica massacre survivors sue UN, Netherlands

[JURIST] Thousands of survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] filed a class action lawsuit against the United Nations and the Netherlands Monday, alleging that both are liable for their failure to protect civilians, many of whom were refugees that relocated to the Srebrenica enclave declared [S/Res 819, PDF] to to be a "safe area" by the UN Security Council in 1993. The lawsuit, filed at the Dutch Supreme Court, will be heard by the Hague District Court, where the UN can acquiesce to or challenge the Dutch court's jurisdiction. Marco Gerritsen, who represents approximately 6,000 family members of victims in the lawsuit, faulted the UN and the Netherlands for not being willing to take responsibility for the 450 Dutch peacekeepers that did not intervene and reportedly even assisted as Bosnian-Serb forces rounded up Bosnian Muslims, many of whom were bused away and later massacred.

Tom Karremans, the commander of the peacekeepers, testified [JURIST report] in 2005 that Dutch troops could not intervene to protect the refugees because early phases of the massacre had initially been represented as an "evacuation." An independent report [text] by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation [official website] found that Bosnian-Muslims had been mistakenly advised by Dutch troops to depart from the Srebrenica enclave, although it absolved the Dutch troops of blame because the peacekeepers were outnumbered, lightly armed, insufficiently supplied, denied air support, and under rules of engagement that permitted only self-defense. Five of the 161 suspects indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] remain fugitives, including Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder; BBC profile, both of whom are wanted for their alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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