‘Nobody could have foreseen Srebrenica’, Dutch court told


The Dutch government on Thursday appealed against a court ruling which found it liable for the deaths of over 300 Bosnians during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying nobody could have forseen a genocide.

“Nobody would have thought that a genocide could possibly take place in Europe in 1995,” government lawyer Bert-Jan Houtzagers told an appeals court in The Hague.

In 2014, a Dutch court ruled that Dutch UN peacekeepers were responsible for the deaths of some 300 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in July 1995.

The court said the peacekeepers should not have expelled the victims from their UN base at Potocari near Srebrenica after it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.

Victims’ families had sued the Dutch government, accusing the peacekeepers of failing to protect some 8,000 men and boys slaughtered by ethnic Bosnian Serb forces just before the end of the Bosnian war.

The Dutch soldiers “placed their safety above everything else,” said Marco Gerritsen, a lawyer representing many of the victims’ families.

“They did not carry out United Nations instructions to protect citizens and fight back,” Gerritsen told the court on Thursday.

“Instead they knowingly handed men and boys over to their killers,” said another lawyer for the families, Simon van der Sluijs.

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.

But the Dutch state has appealed the 2014 ruling, and pinned responsibility for Europe’s worst post-World War II massacre on the shoulders of Bosnian Serb troops.

“It was a situation in which the Bosnian Serbs had the upper hand, and the Dutchbat only could steer the situation as best they could,” Houtzagers said, referring to the Dutch peacekeepers.

More than 100,000 people died and some 2.2 million others were uprooted in the bitter 1992-95 conflict triggered by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ratko Mladic, the former commander of Bosnian Serb forces, is currently on trial on charges of genocide and war crimes arising from the war, including for the Srebrenica massacre.

© 2016 AFP

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