The Dutch Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Netherlands is partly liable in the deaths of some 350 Muslim men who were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The Netherlands’ highest court said Friday that Dutch United Nations peacekeepers evacuated the men from their military base near Srebrenica on July 13, 1995, despite knowing that they “were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered” by Bosnian Serb forces.
The ruling was the latest in a long-running legal battle by a group of relatives known as the Mothers of Srebrenica to hold the Dutch government liable for the deaths of their family members in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.
The men were among 5,000 terrified Muslim residents of the Srebrenica area who took shelter in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the region was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was convicted of genocide by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in 2017 for masterminding the massacre that left some 8,000 Muslim men and boys dead. Mladic has appealed.
“They are responsible, and they will always have a stain,” Munira Subasic, one of the relatives who brought the case, said of the Dutch. “We know what happened, we don’t need this court to tell us. I am shaken, I did not expect this.”
The Supreme Court said that relatives of the slain men are eligible to claim 10% of their financial damages from the Dutch government because the court estimated that the men would have had a 10% chance of survival if the Dutch troops had allowed them to remain inside their compound.
Dutch judgments in the case have been hailed as internationally significant in establishing that governments can be held liable if the peacekeepers they send on U.N. missions fail to protect civilians during armed conflicts.
The Supreme Court did not follow legal advice from its own Advocate General, who issued a nonbinding advisory opinion earlier this year calling the 2017 Dutch judgment “irrational” and saying it “cannot be upheld.”