Srebrenica victims win lawsuit against Dutch govt

Bismillah. Received from a friend today, regarding Hasan Nuhanovic etc.:

I thought you might like to know the outcome of Hasan’s appeal today, and I hope it will give you encouragement to persevere in the face of all odds.

Sadly it doesn’t bring back Hasan’s mother, father and brother or Mr Mustafic
and the other victims, but I hope it will mean that in future UN Protection will in fact mean that.

The Associated Press
5 July 2011

Srebrenica victims win lawsuit against the Dutch

By MIKE CORDER – Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, July 5 (AP) — The Netherlands was responsible for the
deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men slain by Serbs during the 1995 Srebrenica
massacre, appeals judges ruled Tuesday, ordering the Dutch government to
compensate the men’s relatives.

The landmark ruling could open the path to other compensation claims by victims
who claim their male relatives should have been protected by the Dutch U.N.
peacekeepers in charge of the U.N. ‘safe zone’ near Srebrenica during Bosnia’s
1992-1995 war.

It could also have wider implications for countries sending troops on U.N.
peacekeeping missions, as it opens the possibility of national governments being
taken to court for the actions of their troops even when they are under U.N.
control.

The case was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, an interpreter who lost his brother and
father, and relatives of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician who was killed. They
argued that all three men should have been protected by Dutch peacekeepers.
Mustafic and Nuhanovic were employed by the Dutch peacekeepers, but Nuhanovic’s
father and brother were not.

One of the relatives, Damir Mustafic, told The Associated Press outside the
court that the ruling came just days before he was to bury his father’s remains
in a Srebrenica cemetery. Some 600 bodies exhumed from mass graves around the
town in the past year have been identified using DNA tests, and they will be
interred Monday as part of commemorations for the 16th anniversary of Europe’s
worst massacre since World War II.

“I am very happy, finally,” Mustafic said. “It has been a long case and it feels
especially good because on the 11th, I have to bury my father.”

The victims were among thousands of Muslims who took shelter in the U.N.
compound as Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran
Srebrenica on July 11 in what was to become the bloody climax to the 1992-95
Bosnian war that claimed 100,000 lives.

Two days later, the outnumbered Dutch peacekeepers bowed to pressure from
Mladic’s troops and forced thousands of Muslim families out of the compound.
Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away
and began executing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Those bodies were plowed
into hastily made mass graves in what international courts have ruled was
genocide.

The ruling said even though the Dutch soldiers were operating under a U.N
mandate, they were under the “effective control” of top Dutch military and
government officials in The Hague when they ordered hundreds of Muslim men and
boys out of their compound.

The ruling said the three men were among the last to be expelled and by that
time the “Dutchbat” peacekeepers already had seen Bosnian Serb troops abusing
Muslim men and boys and should have known they faced the real threat of being
killed.

“Dutchbat should not have turned these men over to the Serbs,” a summary of the
judgment said.

Government lawyer Karlijn Teuben said she would have to study the decision
before deciding whether to appeal.

The Hague Appeals Court did not immediately set a compensation figure. Victims’
lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the sum would “not be in the millions.”

“This was never about money for the victims,” Zegveld said.

Zegveld was surprised the appeals panel overturned a 2008 court ruling that
rejected any Dutch government responsibility.

“I didn’t consider this possible within the borders of the Netherlands,” she
said. “Because we’re all too much involved. It’s too big, it’s too much a trauma
in our state and I thought the court would not be able to disentangle themselves
from the drama.”

Nuhanovic said the ruling was “a relief,” but he is still pursuing other cases
at home in Bosnia.

“I am after the killers of my family, the Serbs who live in Bosnia,” he said.
“One of them even works in the same building where I work … I have to go to my
office every day to the same building and he’s still there. So this is just one
of the cases I have been dealing with for the last 10-15 years.”

Tuesday’s ruling is the latest step in dealing with a national trauma for the
Netherlands.

The humiliated Dutch troops returned home from Srebrenica to scathing charges of
cowardice and incompetence, although subsequent inquiries exonerated the ground
forces.

The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after an investigation by the National War
Documentation Institute blamed the debacle on Dutch authorities and the United
Nations for sending the battalion into the mission, failing to give the
peacekeepers enough weapons for self-defense and refusing to answer the
commanders’ call for air support.

Zegveld said although the ruling was tightly focused on the three victims named
in the case, it would likely give hope to others.

“I assume that for those families who had male members on the compound that they
stand a good chance to win their case as well,” she said.

It was not immediately clear how many other relatives – if any – are suing the
Dutch state.

Zegveld said she also is considering launching a civil case in Dutch courts
against Mladic, who was extradited here by Serbia in May after more than 15
years on the run.

Mladic is being held at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, where he faces 11
charges including genocide for commanding troops responsible for atrocities
including the Srebrenica massacre.

Mladic belligerently refused to enter any pleas to the charges at a hearing
Monday and judges entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. He faces a life
sentence if convicted.

###


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