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Dutch court hears Srebrenica refugee lawsuit against Netherlands

[JURIST] The district court in The Hague Monday began hearing the first civil action [press release, in Dutch] against the Dutch State for the actions of its peacekeeping troops during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs - UN translator Hasan Nuhanovic [PBS interview], whose family was killed in the massacre, and the family members of murdered electrician Rizo Mustafic - allege that the government failed to protect their families and other civilians, many of whom were refugees that relocated to the Srebrenica "safe area" [S/Res 819, PDF]. The plaintiffs' lawyer has said that the Dutch government breached its duty to protect the civilians and violated their human rights. The court is scheduled to start hearing a similar class action lawsuit [JURIST report; case backgrounder] against the UN and the Netherlands on Wednesday. A court ruled in November that the case could proceed despite 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 insofar as in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity." A ruling for the cases is expected on November 10. Reuters has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

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.

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