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Dutch appeals court holds state liable for deaths of 3 Bosniaks at Srebrenica

The Hague Appeals Court [official website, in Dutch] Tuesday ruled [judgment, in Dutch; press release, in Dutch] that the Netherlands is liable for the death of three Bosniak men during the Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive] forcing it to compensate the men's families. The court held the Netherlands liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims, Bosiniaks, of about 5,000 who took refuge in a UN-designated "safe area" [resolution materials] controlled by the Dutch battalion, Dutchbat, after then General Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; JURIST news archive] invaded Srebrenica. Dutchbat forced the refugees to leave [BBC report] the compound after which they were killed during the massacre. The court held that Dutchbat knew that men were being beaten and killed by the invading army and thus should reasonably have known that by forcing the men out of the compound it was putting them in grave danger. But court specified that the ruling only applies to the specific refugees in this case and that it was not making a broader ruling as to the liability for others killed at Srebrenica. The massacre resulted in the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Relatives of the victims filed the complaint [JURIST report] with the Dutch prosecutor's office in July 2010 alleging that three Dutch soldiers, operating as UN peacekeepers, were complicit in the commission of war crimes and genocide during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The complaint argued that the soldiers knew the victims would be killed if they were handed over to Serbian troops. Relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre had previously sought justice for the actions of Dutch peacekeeping forces, which they say led to the massacre. In March, The Hague Appeals Court upheld [JURIST report] the UN's immunity from prosecution by rejecting claims [JURIST report] brought by relatives of victims of the massacre. The relatives, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, alleged that the Netherlands should be liable for the deaths because Dutch soldiers operating under the UN flag negligently failed to protect civilians by forcing the victims out of "safe area" and turning them over to Bosnian Serbs. Ratko Mladic was arrested [JURIST report] in May and is currently on trial in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was thrown out of his latest court appearance [JURIST report] earlier this week for causing a disruption and refusing to issue a plea.

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