Global Policy Forum

Srebrenica Victims File Complaint Against Dutch Peacekeepers

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Fifteen years after the horrific "Srebrenica massacre," relatives of two murdered men filed a complaint with the Dutch prosecutor's office charging three Dutch peacekeeping commanders with complicity in genocide and war crimes.  After hundreds of civilians were killed in the Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) enclave, the UN declared the region a "safe area."  A small unit operating under the mandate of UNPROFOR was responsible for guarding this area, but in July 1995 Serbian forces captured the region and massacred over eight thousand Bosniaks.  If deemed guilty by the Public Prosecutor, these peacekeepers could be sentenced with life imprisonment.

By Hillary Stemple

July 6, 2010


A complaint was filed with the Dutch prosecutor's office on Tuesday alleging that three Dutch soldiers, operating as UN peacekeepers, were complicit in the commission of war crimes and genocide during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which resulted in the death of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The complaint was filed by the relatives of two of the victims and contends that the soldiers knew the victims would be killed if they were handed over to Serbian troops led by Serbian general Ratko Mladic. According to the complaint, the soldiers forced the victims from a UN-designated "safe area," resulting in their deaths. The complaint also states that the men knew about the Serbian hatred of Muslims [Dutch News report] and about the previous execution of Muslims, making the soldiers complicit in the deaths of the victims. The lawyer representing the families has stated that evidence against the peacekeepers includes the fact that they expressed concern about the possibility of mass execution [RNW report] but still evicted the men from the base that was being protected by Dutch troops. The Dutch prosecutor will now consider whether to investigate the charges. If the men were to be convicted, they could face a sentence of life in prison.

Relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre have previously sought justice for the actions of Dutch peacekeeping forces, which they say led to the massacre. In March, the Hague Appeals Court upheld the UN's immunity from prosecution by rejecting claims brought by relatives of victims of the massacre. The relatives, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, alleged that the Netherlands should be liable for the deaths because Dutch soldiers operating under the UN flag negligently failed to protect civilians by forcing the victims out of "safe area" and turning them over to Bosnian Serbs. The court found that immunity is essential to the UN's ability to carry out its duties and that the Dutch acting as UN peacekeepers could not be held responsible. The decision upheld the district court's 2008 decision to dismiss the claims. The Mothers of Srebrenica have vowed to appeal the case to the Netherlands Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice if necessary.


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