Dutch Supreme Court: State Liable in Srebrenica Case
The Supreme Court of The Netherlands has found the Dutch state liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The September 6 ruling upheld a 2011 appeals court decision.
The civil case was originally brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, a translator for the United Nations at the time of the massacre, and the family of Rizo Mustafic, who was an electrician for the Dutch battalion of UN peacekeepers, known as Dutchbat.
Dutchbat was assigned to protect the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica after it was declared a “safe area” in 1993. On July 11, 1995, the enclave fell to Bosnian Serb armed forces, and thousands of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians sought refuge at the UN compound in nearby Potocari. A few thousand were admitted into the compound, while thousands more remained just outside it.
As UN employees, Mustafic and Nuhanovic were allowed into the compound, along with Nuhanovic’s father, mother, and brother. However, Dutchbat soldiers subsequently forced Mustafic to leave the compound. They allowed Nuhanovic to stay but sent his brother away, and his father decided to follow.
The three men were never seen again. Some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces that July in what is considered the worst single atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.
The Supreme Court upheld the 2011 appeals court ruling, which found that “Dutchbat should not have sent the electrician [Mustafic] and the brother of the interpreter [Nuhanovic] from the compound, and should have foreseen that the father would follow the son”.
The Supreme Court confirmed that both the UN and the Dutch state were responsible for what happened.
“The Supreme Court has held that public international law allows conduct to be attributed not only to the United Nations, which was in charge of the peace mission, but also to the State, because the latter had effective control over the disputed conduct of Dutchbat. The Court of Appeal was therefore entitled to hold that Dutchbat’s conduct is attributable to the state,” a summary of the decision stated.
Earlier this year, the public prosecutor’s office in The Netherlands decided against launching a criminal investigation into Dutchbat’s commander, Thomas Karremans. For more on that story, see No Criminal Charges for Dutch Officers' Srebrenica Role. .
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.