Dutch Court to Hear Case on Srebrenica Massacre | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.06.2008

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Dutch Court to Hear Case on Srebrenica Massacre

Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop a massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the United Nations-protected enclave of Srebrenica in 2005. Now two trials will examine Dutch and UN culpability.

Bosnian muslim refugee Sida Mehinovic displays photographs of her loved ones who were killed in 1995 when Bosnian Serb forces took enclave of Srebrenica

Bosnian Serbs have brought a civil case against the Dutch

Thirteen years ago Dutch troops failed to protect 8,000 Bosnian Muslims from being executed by Serb forces in Srebrenica. On Monday, June 16, family members of the victims will appeal for justice to a court in The Hague.

The civil case is being brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, a translator for the Dutch who lost his parents and younger brother in the massacre.

"My family members were expelled from the Dutch base and handed over to the Serbs ... by Dutch soldiers," he alleges.

Today, few Muslims from Srebrenica's pre-war community of 27,000 remain. The Srebrenica massacre is considered Europe's worst atrocity since World War II and has been termed a genocide by international courts.

Families demand justice

Srebrenica was a United Nations-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces who loaded thousands of men and boys onto trucks, throwing their bodies into mass graves.

The Serbs overran lightly-armed Dutch UN peacekeepers, who were in charge of a "safe area" where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection.

A view of two skulls with family pictures next to them, some of the dozens found by The Expert Commission for POW's and Missing Persons near Srebrenica

Srebrenica was the site of mass graves

"The Dutch troops knew that the persons who stepped off the battalion base would be in mortal danger," Nuhanovic, the translator, told "AFP" news agency. "They did not care. They wanted to leave as soon as possible themselves, and they couldn't do so while the refugees remained on the base."

Nuhanovic told "Reuters" news agency that he needed to seek justice in order to "go on with his life."

A separate suit against the Dutch state, which also began on Monday, will examine the claims of Mehida, Damir and Alma Mustafic, the widow and children of Rizo Mustafic. Rizo Mustafic was an electrician who was employed on the nearby Dutch base in Potocari.

A man walks by a painted sign which says Don't forget Srebrenice

Bosnian Serbs have not forgotten what happened in Srebrenica

Mustafic's family claim they were later forced to flee the base and never saw Mustafic again.

On Wednesday, a district court will take up a similar complaint by survivors calling themselves "Mothers of Srebrenica." That case lists both the Dutch government and the UN as defendants.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue the Dutch state allowed the killing of thousands of Muslims. The cases are expected to be decided in a matter of months, according to according to a statement issued by the tribunal.

Dutch were on an "impossible mission"

Bosnian Muslim woman reacts as she finds the coffin of her relative from among 505 bodies to be buried during funeral ceremony at the Potocari Memorial Center, near Srebrenica in 2006

Work continues to identify all the victims

In the years since Bosnia's 1992-1995 war ended, mass graves containing thousands of bodies have been found.

The massacre caused major soul searching in Holland. An official report stated that the government sent its peacekeepers on an "impossible" mission. That led to the entire Dutch government resigning.

The UN also admitted its failure to adequately protect the Muslims of Srebrenica from mass murder, but none of its officials were held responsible.

The Netherlands has said its troops were abandoned by the United Nations, which gave them no air support. Public documents show that Dutch military officials within the United Nations blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by "friendly fire", the families' lawyers have said.

Outside the court, about 50 relatives and survivors along with human rights group the Society for Threatened Peoples held a silent vigil. They carried a long banner listing the names of 8,106 victims.

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