The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that the Netherlands is responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men during the infamous Srebrenica massacre in 1995. More than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were killed in the massacre, considered to be the worst on European soil since World War II.
At the time, Dutch peacekeeping forces had ordered the men to leave a United Nations compound when it was attacked by Bosnian Serb forces.
The ruling upheld a lower court decision from two years ago. The Dutch newspaper Volksrant reported that the government will implement Friday's ruling.
"The case centered on three Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) who were working for the Dutch force, Dutchbat, during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
"They were electrician Rizo Mustafic and the father and brother of former UN interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic.
"The three men were among thousands who took shelter in the UN compound as Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on 11 July 1995.
"Two days later, Dutch peacekeepers forced the Bosniaks out of the compound."
Mustafic's and Nuhanovi's families had argued that the peacekeepers should have protected the men, but the Dutch government maintained that the soldiers were serving the U.N.
There are fears that the ruling could open up the Dutch government to claims of compensation from families of the victims of the massacre, and that it could deter states from taking part in peacekeeping missions. But The Associated Press quoted Toon Heisterkamp, a Supreme Court judge responsible for briefing the media, as saying the case's narrow focus meant it was unlikely to have wider implications.
The AP adds: "The Srebrenica massacre has turned into a national trauma for the Netherlands. Dutch troops returning home from Srebrenica faced accusations of cowardice and incompetence, although subsequent inquiries exonerated the ground forces."
NPR did a series of stories on the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. They are listed below:
The Srebrenica Killings, 10 Years Later
Serbians Still Divided Over Srebrenica Massacre
Bosnia Marks 10th Anniversary Of Srebrenica Massacre