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European court dismisses case against Dutch troops for Srebrenica deaths

The families of victims of the Srebrenica massacre lost a case at a top European court to hold Dutch officers criminally responsible for their relatives' deaths. But it's not the only court addressing the 1995 atrocity.

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday upheld a Dutch appeals court ruling that Dutch soldiers did not bear responsibility for the deaths of three men who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.

Relatives of Rizo Mustafic, Muhamed Nuhanovic and his father Ibro Nuhanovic had accused Dutch troops of being criminally responsible for their family members' deaths after the three men were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after leaving a Dutch compound.

The families said Dutch peacekeepers were aware the Bosnian Muslims would likely be killed if they did not receive protection in what the United Nations had at the time determined was a "safe area" and under the guard by Dutch soldiers, called Dutchbat.

Troops not personally involved

But the European court dismissed the case, and said the matter had been "sufficiently investigated" by Dutch officials and agreed with the appeals court that the Dutch peacekeepers were not personally involved in the killings and were "unaware of the extent of the imminent massacre."

A Bosnian woman mourns at the grave of a relative on July 11, 2015 at the Potocari Memorial Center Photo: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The massacre was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two

Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran the UN enclave in Srebrenica in July 1995 and killed between 7,000 and 8,000 Muslim men and boys, making it Europe's worst massacre since World War II. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of genocide in 2016.

Other cases continue

Mladic is currently on trial for genocide and war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) based in The Hague. The ICTY has said the atrocity constituted genocide. Other Bosnian Serb former officers have received life sentences for their roles in the massacre.

While the European Court of Human Rights decision put an end to criminal charges against Dutch troops, victims' relatives won a civil case against the commander of the Dutch battalion of peacekeepers, Thom Karremans, and two other officers.

In 2013, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands' government was liable for the three deaths. That landmark ruling led to an official apology to the relatives and compensation. Dutchbat soldiers have sued the government for being spent on an "impossible mission" to Srebrenica.

sms/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

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