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Dutch court allows Srebrenica lawsuit against UN, Netherlands to proceed

[JURIST] A court in the Netherlands ruled Tuesday that the families of approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslims who were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive] can proceed with their class action lawsuit [JURIST report; case backgrounder] against the United Nations and the Netherlands filed June 4, according to lawyer Marco Gerritsen, who represents approximately 6,000 family members of victims in the lawsuit. Gerritsen said the court ruled the case can proceed in spite of the UN's claim of immunity [JURIST report; press briefing transcript] 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." The thousands of Srebrenica survivors who filed the lawsuit allege that both the Netherlands and the UN 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 be a "safe area" by the UN Security Council in 1993.

Tom Karremans, commander of the Dutch 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. Several 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. Reuters has more.

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