Wednesday, a Netherlands court found the country’s government at least partially responsible for the massacre of 300 Bosnian Muslims. The court ruled the Dutch failed to protect them during the horrific July 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia, the Associated Press reported.
The court case stems from a the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees, who had fled to a U.N. compound occupied by Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica, to escape the army of Ratko Mladic. Mladic’s army was leading an ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats that was at the forefront of the Bosnian War.
Once word that the Muslims had fled to Srebrenica spread to Mladic, his army began to shell Dutch positions around the area. According to the BBC, as more than 20,000 refugees fled to the main Dutch base at Potocari, the Serbs then threatened to kill Dutch hostages and bomb refugees.
Here’s what a U.N. officer sent via computer to his leaders in Geneva on that day, according to a 1995 New York Times article:
“Urgent urgent urgent. B.S.A. is entering the town of Srebrenica. Will someone stop this immediately and save these people. Thousands of them are gathering around the hospital. Please help.”
But no one did, and the outnumbered Dutch peacekeepers ended up handing over 300 of the refugees over Mladic’s army, according to The New York Times. Just a day later, reports of the massacres started to emerge.
Muslim men were taken by the thousands to killing sites around the Drina River, where they would be lined up in four-by-four rows and shot, according to the same Times article. One survivor even said he had overheard a Serbian soldier happily declare, “That was a good hunt. There were a lot of rabbits here.”
“The court says Dutch peacekeepers should have known they were sending hundreds of Bosnian Muslims to their deaths when they kicked them out of the U.N.-declared safe haven near Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war,” an NPR report said. “The Dutch soldiers handed the Bosnian Muslims over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them they’d be ‘safe,'” adding that the ruling could impact countries’ willingness to serve as U.N. peacekeepers.
“It can be said with sufficient certainty that, had Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive. By co-operating in the deportation of these men, Dutchbat acted unlawfully,” the court added, according to the BBC.
Seven lawyers had been working on the case since 2007 on behalf of relatives of the 300 victims, according to The Times.
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