Dutch State to Appeal Srebenica Ruling


The Dutch state will appeal a court ruling that found it liable for the deaths of over 300 Bosnian Muslim men and boys during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the defense ministry said on Thursday.

Three months ago judges ruled that Dutch UN peacekeepers should not have expelled the more than 300 victims from a U.N. base at Potocari near Srebrenica in mid-July 1995 after it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces during the country civil war.

Families of the victims had sued the Dutch government over the killings, accusing the Dutch peacekeepers of failing to protect almost 8,000 people slaughtered by ethnic Serb forces just a few months before the end of the Bosnian war.

The incident has been a source of national shame for the Netherlands, and was seen as a major failure on the part of the United Nations -- whose missions around the world could be affected by the landmark July 16 ruling.

"There is a risk of jurisprudence for our missions if this case is used as a reference in future," Defense Ministry spokesman Klaas Meijer told AFP, adding an appeal was filed earlier Thursday before a Hague-based court.

The judgment followed a Dutch court's landmark ruling last year that the state was liable for the deaths at the U.N.'s Potocari compound, the first time a government had been held responsible for the actions of peacekeepers operating under a U.N. mandate.

More than 100,000 people died and some 2.2 million others were uprooted in the bitter 1992-95 conflict that broke out after the former Yugoslavia broke up in 1991.

Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic brushed aside the lightly-armed "Dutchbat" blue helmets in a "safe area" near Srebrenica where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection.

What followed was the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II with almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys murdered and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

Mladic is currently on trial on genocide and war crimes charges over the war in Bosnia, including Srebrenica.

Said Meijer: "The Srebrenica massacre is a terrible tragedy for which the Bosnian Serb troops, and only they, are responsible."

In April, the Dutch government agreed to pay 20,000 euros ($25,000) to relatives of three Bosnian Muslim men murdered after the peacekeepers expelled them from the U.N. compound in a separate case.

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