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UN claims immunity in Srebrenica massacre civil suit

[JURIST] The United Nations (UN) responded Friday to a class action lawsuit filed against the UN and the Netherlands [JURIST report] earlier in the week by thousands of survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], insisting [press briefing transcript] it was immune under Article 2 Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [PDF text], which says that the UN's property and assets "shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except it has expressly waived its immunity." Marie Okabe, spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, said that "survivors of the Srebrenica massacres are absolutely right to demand justice... [and] the fact that the United Nations [has immunity]... in no way diminishes the United Nations' commitment to assist" the victims. The class action suit against the UN and the Netherlands alleges that both are liable for their failure to protect civilians, many of whom were refugees that were relocated to the Srebrenica enclave declared [Security Council Resolution 819, PDF] to be a "safe area" by the UN Security Council in 1993. Victims and critics have faulted the UN and the Netherlands for not taking responsibility for the 450 Dutch peacekeepers who did not intervene to protect Bosnian Muslims, who were largely defenseless after being disarmed by UN forces as a condition to enter the Srebrenica enclave. Peacekeepers reportedly even assisted as Bosnian Serb forces rounded up Bosnian Muslims, many of whom were bussed 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. AP has more.

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