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The Dutch Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Netherlands was partially liable for the deaths of around 350 Bosniak men who were handed over to Bosnian Serb Army troops on July 13, 1995 by the UN’s Dutch Battalion of peacekeepers, based near Srebrenica, and later killed.
The court said however that the victims’ chance of survival if the Dutch peacekeepers had attempted to protect them by keeping them at their base was only ten per cent.
This was lower than the 30 per cent chance of survival determined under previous rulings handed down by the Dutch courts in the case.
The families of the 350 men can seek compensation from the Netherlands, but the amount is limited to 10 per cent of the total damages awarded, the ruling said.
The court ruling determined that from the evening of July 12, the Dutch Battalion knew that Bosnian Serb forces were separating men from women and children and that there was a danger that they might be abused and killed.
The Dutch Battalion continued to evacuate Bosniak women and children from the area outside the UN military base on the morning of July 13, and 5,000 of them were still at the base that afternoon – among them 350 men, whose presence was not known to Bosnian Serb forces because they did not see them, the ruling said.
The Dutch troops were not wrong to cooperate with Bosnian Serb forces to evacuate the women and children but were at fault for handing over the men, according to the verdict.
“That was wrong, because the Dutchbat knew that the men were in a serious danger of being tortured and killed and it should have done all it could to prevent such a situation,” the court said.
There was a small but not negligible chance that the men could have escaped death, the court found.
“The Supreme Court estimates that the men had a ten per cent chance to escape from the Bosnian Serbs had they been offered the possibility to stay at the [UN] base,” it said.
The decision by the Supreme Court, following two previous rulings by the Dutch courts, is final and cannot be appealed.
More than 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica, including the 350 men handed over by the Dutch troops, were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 – a crime that international courts have classified as genocide.
Murat Tahirovic, president of the Association of Witnesses and Victims of Genocide, criticised the Supreme Court verdict.
“I consider that this is humiliating for the victims, bearing in mind the previous verdict. [The percentage of liability] was small, but now it is especially small,” Tahirovic said.
He added that the Mothers of Srebrenica association, which brought the case to the Dutch courts, was now discussing with its lawyers the possibility of taking it to the International Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg.
In a separate case in September 2013, the Supreme Court found the Netherlands responsible for the death of three Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995.