The three men had been ordered by Dutch peacekeeping troops to leave the UN compound when Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. They were among thousands of others who took shelter in the UN compound only to be forced out by the "Dutchbat" (the Dutch forces under the UN command) two days later.
During the massacre, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men or Bosniaks were killed by Bosnian Serb forces. The incident was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
Friday’s decision upheld an earlier ruling by an appeals court in 2011.
Liesbeth Zegveld, human rights lawyer representing the Bosnian families, called the ruling historic. She told Associated Press that the decision sets a precedent because it holds countries involved in UN missions legally responsible for crimes. Zegveld stressed, “People participating in UN missions are not always covered by the UN flag.”
The decision now clears the way for relatives and families of victims to seek compensation from the Dutch state for the deaths. Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his brother and father in the incident, was one of the complainants of the lawsuit. “I was thinking about my family, they are dead for 18 years,” he told Associated Press, adding: “It does not change that, but maybe there is some justice.”
The case that went on for 10 years could have implications on future UN peacekeeping missions, as states might show reluctance to participate in foreign military operations. However, Dutch Supreme Court Judge, Toon Heisterkamp said the narrow focus of the case makes it unlikely to have far-reaching effects.
Sources: Radio France, BBC, Radio Free Europe Liberty.
Photo caption: Women mourn the death of their loved ones in the Srebrenica massacre. By cvrcak1