NO IMMUNITY FOR GENOCIDE
COURT DISMISSES LEGAL IMMUNITY FOR THE UNITED NATIONS and NETHERLANDS
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Banner contains photo of indicted war criminal on the run – Gen Ratko Mladic – and a message: “Thanks to NL (Netherlands)”. In 1995, the U.N. Dutch peacekeepers stood helplessly when Serb forces massacred over 8,000 Srebrenica refugees who sought help in the U.N. Compound of Potocari. The Dutch state has always said its troops were abandoned by the U.N. which gave them no air support, but public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the U.N. blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire.
“The U.N. has the duty to prevent genocide. An appeal to immunity in a case of genocide, as in the Srebrenica drama, is irreconcilable with the U.N.’s own objectives and its international obligations.”
Dutch court ruled Tuesday that the United Nations and the Netherlands should face trial for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, Bosnian lawyer Semir Guzin confirmed in Sarajevo.
Guzin told local Bosnian media that the county court based in The Hague had set a legal precedent, dismissing UN legal immunity in the case in which more than 6,000 survivors of the massacre sued the world organization and the Dutch government for failing to protect them.
On July 11, 1995, units of the Bosnian Serb Army led by General Ratko Mladic overran the Dutch peacekeeping forces protecting Bosniak refugees in the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica and began the systematic execution of over 8,000 men and boys, close to 500 of them were underage children.
Many of Srebrenica refugees were rounded up, separated from their families and shot on the spot or in the neighboring villages.
Others, who tried to make their ways through Serb-captured territory, were captured later and executed or shelled and gunned down in ambushes.
Although some of the perpetrators have been since sentenced or are standing trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, these actions, the largest genocide in Europe since the end of the Second World War, took place amidst the silent neglect of most of the international community.
Instead of preventing the massacre, the Dutch even actively participated in the selection and separation of Bosnian women and men and their forcible removal and detention. The Bosniak men, elderly, and underage boys were almost all murdered.
Quick recap from eye-witness testimonies (warning: graphic content):
Quote Start: The Serbs began to “march girls and young women away from the group of refugees. They were raped.” ….A Dutch soldier stood by and watched as the women were raped, even listening to music on his Walkman…. A Serb [soldier], says Subasic, “told the mother to make the child stop crying. But when the baby continued to cry, he took it from the mother and slit its throat. Then he laughed. A Dutch soldier also witnessed the murder of the baby, she says, and yet he “didn’t react at all”… The Muslim men, some as young as 12, were almost all murdered. The scenes that transpired in the camp are indescribable. The Serbs would pick out girls from groups. “I saw the Bosnian women begging the Dutchbat soldiers to bring the girls back,” Kadira Gabeljic, one of the plaintiffs, recalls. But they only responded: “no, no, no.” Ramiza Gurdic, another plaintiff, witnessed an incident that she is unlikely to ever forget. She describes a scene in which a 10-year-old boy was placed in his mother’s lap and literally slaughtered. “His little head was chopped off, and the body remained in the mother’s lap.” Quote End
Over 8,000 Bosniak men were massacred after Bosnian Serb troops captured the town of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former eastern Bosniak enclave was at that time a UN safe haven and was under the protection of Dutch UN troops. Over 8,000 victims of Srebrenica genocide were dug into mass graves, only to be reburied at different locations later in an attempt to hide the crime (see photo below).
“For the first time the UN will have to show up in a process in which many things about wrong moves taken in Srebrenica are to be explained,” said Guzin, a member of the Bosnian legal team representing the Mothers of Srebrenica association.
The decision of the court to dismiss UN legal immunity, he said, would now help create a better position for a possible agreement between the Srebrenica survivors and the accused side — the UN and the Netherlands.
“I am happy. Justice will finally find its place,” Munira Subasic of the Srebrenica mothers’ association said, adding that the genocide in Srebrenica happened under the UN flag.
The Mothers of Srebrenica, represented by Bosnian and international lawyers, three years ago sued the UN and the Dutch government demanding 1 billion dollars’ compensation for their failure to prevent the massacre and protect innocent civilians in Srebrenica.
A court in the Hague ruled the case could proceed, dismissing pleas by public prosecutors that it should be dropped after the United Nations invoked its legal immunity and said it would not take part.
Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, representing the victims’ families, said on Tuesday the court had supported their argument that the U.N. could not be granted automatic immunity.
“The U.N. has the duty to prevent genocide. An appeal to immunity in a case of genocide, as in the Srebrenica drama, is irreconcilable with the U.N.’s own objectives and its international obligations,” he added in a statement.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb Army chief Ratko Mladic, both wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges over Srebrenica, are still on the run.
Dismayed by the failure to bring to justice the two chief suspects, victims’ families say they have turned to a Dutch court for recognition and redress for the tragedy.
The Dutch state has always said its troops were abandoned by the U.N. which gave them no air support, but public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the U.N. blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire, the families’ lawyers said.
In 2002 the entire Dutch government of former prime minister Wim Kok resigned. During his visit to Srebrenica in 2002, Wim Kok expressed remorse, but refused to apologize.
Process of DNA-identification of Srebrenica massacre victims. Photo by the ICMP (the International Commission on Missing Persons).
Photo Caption: Personal remains of Srebrenica massacre victims. Photo by the ICMP (the Internationa Commission on Missing Persons).
Photo Caption: Log books at the Tuzla Center of the International Commission on Missing Persons. Photo by Iain Page, 2004.