Srebrenica massacre: Dutch troops ‘10% liable’ for Srebrenica massacre

The court said the state had 10% liability, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

Bosnian Serb forces killed a total of 8,000 Muslim men in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The Dutch had been guarding a UN safe zone when it was overrun.

It is rare for a state to be held responsible for failures in UN peacekeeping work, but the court emphasised that the Netherlands bore “very limited liability”.

In 2002, a report into the Netherland’s role in Srebrenica caused the entire Dutch government to resign.

The Dutch defence ministry said the government had accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict on Friday, including liability for any damages.

What did the court say?

The court ruled that if Dutch forces had given 350 men hiding in the UN compound the chance to stay, there was just a 10% chance they would not have fallen into the hands of the Serbs, and so the Dutch state should be liable for only that proportion of the damages suffered by the bereaved.

The ruling did not give details on how it calculated the 10% chance of survival.

The final verdict draws a line under years of legal battles between the Dutch state and the plaintiffs – a group of victims’ relatives known as the Mothers of Srebrenica.

The case was escalated to the highest court because the state wanted to be cleared of responsibility, while the Mothers of Srebrenica wanted it to be held accountable for all 8,000 deaths in the genocide.

An appeals court had previously set the liability at 30%, but the supreme court’s ruling has drastically reduced that figure.

In the front row of court sat the women who call themselves the Mothers of Srebrenica.

A formidable trio who lost husbands, sons and fathers in the Srebrenica massacre and have made this pursuit of justice their mission in life.

Sitting a few seats away from them, I was surprised these normally vocal women remained silent as the judgment was read out. When we got outside, one of them, Munira Subasic, explained why.

“It was a humiliation again. Just like in 1995 the Dutch were in charge, and we didn’t know what was going on.”

The Netherlands’ highest court had failed to provide them with a live translation.

Bringing back those memories of the moments before the massacre when they were herded into groups by the Dutch peacekeepers and evacuated through tunnels, with deportation buses on one side with Bosnian Serb forces. It was at this point the men were plucked from the crowds and taken away to be executed.

Asked if Munira felt the acknowledgment of 10% Dutch culpability for the deaths of the 350 Muslim men who’d been secretly hiding in the compound was a vindication she shook her head.

“I only got a few bones from my son back, about 3%, the rest is still missing.”