September 11, 2008

“One could not have expected a different verdict, because we are dealing with the state, which doesn’t want to accept its responsibility.” – Munira Subasic.

PHOTO: Relatives Mehida Mustafic-Majic, sitting left, her daughter Alma, center, and her son Damir, right, leave the court after the verdict at the District Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008.

A Dutch civil court sided with the Dutch state and dismissed the case against the Netherlands for their failure to prevent Srebrenica genocide in 1995. The Srebrenica enclave had been declared a UN “Safe Haven” under the control of Dutchbat before the massacre took place. Dutch soldiers allowed Serb forces to take away more than 8,000 Bosniak men, children, and elderly – actions which resulted in the worst massacre and the first genocide since the World War II in Europe. Thousands of Bosniak women were forcibly deported from the enclave in a U.N.-assisted ethnic cleansing.

The lawsuit against the Netherlands was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic. Nuhanovic is a survivor of Srebrenica genocide who lost his mother, father and brother in the massacre. Mustafic, who worked as an electrician in the U.N. force’s Dutch battalion (Dutchbat), also died during the Srebrenica genocide. The plaintiffs claimed that both the UN and the Dutch troops failed to take effective action to prevent the massacre, thus violating the UN Convention on genocide.

In June, the Dutch court also rejected another lawsuit brought forward by the association Mothers of Srebrenica, which sought to sue the UN for damages for having failed to protect local civilians and to prevent the massacre.

The latest court ruling said that the Dutch soldiers had acted under the UN flag and the Dutch state could therefore not be held accountable, saying the “actions must be attributed exclusively to the United Nations.” The court ruling also added that if national courts were to start judging United Nations actions and operations, it could have significant negative effects on the future work and decision-making of the UN Security Council.

PHOTO: Hasan Nuhanovic talks to the media after the judgement at the District Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008.

The president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, Munira Subasic, who lost 22 members of her family in the massacres said that “One could not have expected a different verdict, because we are dealing with the state, which doesn’t want to accept its responsibility.”

“Many Dutch soldiers became mentally ill after their Srebrenica mandate where they witnessed mass slaughter and killings,” Subasic said. “It is also known that the Netherlands was sued by its own soldiers,” she added.

“None of the points we presented as evidence to the court over the last six years has been accepted. They have all been rejected. This is a total denial of all accusations presented by the two families,” said Hasan Nuhanovic.

“I have repeated thousands of times that I am not here to blame Dutchbat for their passivity,” Nuhanovic said. “I am accusing them of being active – in violation of the human rights of my family and other refugees. I noticed the judge read several times the sentence ‘under the UN flag’. They referred to the flag under which these Duchbat actions were conducted. However, these actions were conducted under the flag of the Netherlands as well.”

Hasan Nuhanovic said that he feels betrayed by the Dutchbat, “I have been betrayed so many times before by people in my life. The moment I was betrayed was 13 years ago was when I was working with Dutch battalion soldiers, UN officials who knew me and my family personally, they sent my family out to die.”

In June, Nuhanovic had told the court how the Dutch troops expelled his family from the safety of the U.N. compound in Srebrenica. “My mother was crying, I was crying. The only person that wasn’t crying was my brother. He was 22 and very proud. ‘Hasan, don’t beg them for my life any more.'”

Laywer for the Plaintifs, Liesbeth Zegveld, said it was unprecedented that the court did not recognise the suffering of the claimants in any way. “Justice is not a science. It is a choice to see it purely in legal terms.”
  1. Owen
    September 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    The idea of being able to claim immunity when you hand over people under your protection to their death is nonsense. Hopefully at some stage in the appeals process this decision will be overturned, but the whole procedure inevitably involves more distress for the relatives of the victims.

    I hope people visiting this blog will write to their local Dutch embassy or consulate to express the dismay and disgust so many of us feel at the way the Dutch government continues to disclaim all responsibility.

  2. Kirk Johnson
    September 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Well said, Owen. Thanks for the update, Daniel.

  3. Gorazd Andrejč
    March 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    A disgrace for Dutch courts and state. Their comanders are GUILTY, and that has to be recognized.

  4. elvedina2006
    March 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I am reading Hasan Nuhanovic’s book and he quoted a conversation that he witnessed between a Canadian and a Ducth (Andre De Haan) UN personnel where the Canadian said ” I’d feel bad about the children and the women but I don’t care about the men”. And the Duch nodded of course. So, if you take a family and kill all the males you have destroyed that family. Then they can go to countries like Australia where serbs can chant “knife wire Srebrenica” and hit them with chairs at tennis matches.
    The same kind of people want you then to leave their countries and go back home and fight there.If they had just let us defend ourselves…
    They cannot put themselves in our shoes because they think of us as barbarians.(no teeth smells like shit – Bosnian girl). My only hope are the people that do not think this way.

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