THE HAGUE - The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
"The (appeals) court decision is upheld," Judge Floris Bakels said as relatives of the victims broke down in tears and hugged each other and their lawyers, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Friday, September 6.
Friday's hearing was the culmination of a case spanning a decade, lodged in 2003 by the relatives of three Muslims who all worked on the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) base.
The men had sought refuge in the compound of the Dutch mission, which was under the command of the United Nations Protection Force and was participating in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia after the collapse of Yugoslavia.
The Dutch mission sent the Muslim men away from the compound on July 13, 1995, said the court, which is based in The Hague.
After leaving the compound, the men were killed by the Bosnian Serb army and allied paramilitary groups, according to the court.
Rizo Mustafic, an electrician who assisted the Dutch troops, was handed by Dutch troops to Serbian forces.
Hasan Nuhanovic, an interpreter who worked with the Dutch peacekeepers, also lost his father and brother when they were turned over to the Bosnian Serbs.
The remains of his father and brother were recovered in 2007 and 2010.
Judge Bakels stressed that clearing the Dutch state of responsibility would mean that "justice would have almost no way to judge armed interventions."
"That would be unacceptable," he said.
The Dutch government has always maintained that its troops were abandoned by the UN before the killings.
A Dutch appeals court in 2011 found the Dutch state responsible for the trio's deaths, the first time it was held accountable for the Dutch UN battalion's actions.
But the Dutch state then appealed, saying it believed the UN controlled Dutchbat soldiers in Bosnia.
In 2008, a court had that the Netherlands was not responsible for the deaths of the three Muslim men and their families because the soldiers were operating under a UN mandate.
Years after their death, Rizo Mustafic's daughter, Alma, who lived through Srebrenica as a 14-year-old, still recall the incidence.
They regularly visited us at home," she said, telling the court about the close relationship her father had with the Dutchbat soldiers stationed at Potocari.
They even once celebrated Christmas at our house, despite the fact that we had almost nothing to eat and that we don't celebrate Christmas.
But their short-lived relief turned into terror as they realized they were being escorted out of the base by armed Dutchbat soldiers.
"I cannot describe the fear I felt as we walked out," she said.
Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic who was then the commander of the Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnia civil war.
More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.
So far, 6,186 victims have been found in the woods surrounding Srebrenica and identified from 70 mass graves through DNA analysis at the laboratory of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia.
The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of Bosnia's war to have been classed as genocide by two international courts; the International Court of Justice and the ICTY.
The Srebrenica massacre remains a sensitive issue in the Netherlands, where the government fell in 2002 after a damning report by the Dutch Institute for War Documentation into the events surroundings the killings.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net