June 15, 2008

An appeal

During the Bonian war in July 1995 an estimated 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were killed in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladić during the Bosnian War. The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. (Wikipedia).

Prior to the genocide, the United Nations had declared Srebrenica a UN protected "safe area", but that did not prevent the massacre, even though 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers were present at the time.

The father, mother and brother of Hasan Nuhanovic and the husband/father of the Mustafic family were among the people who were actually forced to leave the Dutch UN contingent's compound at Potocari and were effectively hande dover to be killed by the Bosnian Serbs under Ratko Mladic. Hasan and the Mustafic's are bringing a civil action in the Dutch courts on 16 June to hold the Dutch government to account for their failure to protect their relatives. Here is the press release. Please circulate it.

Amsterdam, 1 June 2008:


Civil action due to be heard at 10 a.m. on 16 June 2008 in the District Court at The Hague (Prins Clauslaan 60, The Hague, Netherlands).

On 16 June 2008 the District Court at The Hague will hear the first civil action brought against the Dutch State by relatives of the victims of genocide at Srebrenica. Hasan Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic are seeking to establish that the Dutch state is responsible for the failure of Dutch troops acting under a United Nations mandate to protect their family members massacred at Srebrenica in July 1995.

Hasan Nuhanovic, a U.N. interpreter who lost his father, mother and younger brother, and the family of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician employed by the Dutch battalion of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), claim that the Dutch government failed to protect the lives of their relatives after the safe area established by U.N. Security Council Resolution around the town of Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia was allowed to fall into the hands of the Bosnian Serb Army.

The Nuhanovic and Mustafic families were among thousands of refugees who sought protection inside the compound of the U.N. base at Potocari but were then delivered by the Dutch UNPROFOR forces into the hands of Serb General Ratko Mladic. Dutch soldiers in U.N. blue helmets are alleged to have watched on as women and young girls were taken away and raped and men and boys separated before being taken away for summary execution.

In a tort action against the Dutch state in which much of the legal debate revolves around the division of responsibility between the United Nations and national states, the plaintiffs' lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld will argue that the Dutch government and the Dutch command within UNPROFOR were responsible for the gross negligence shown by Dutch troops, were primarily concerned for the safety of their national contingent and showed scant regard for the safety of the civilian population entrusted to their care.
Please see the full press release here.

Update: Srebrenica Families’ Anger at Removal of Judge:
It is unclear why Judge Bart Punt has left the case, which is to be heard at the Hague District Court on June 16. However, victims’ families are outraged that he is going after working on it for three years, and fear it could affect the final verdict.

In January 2007, families welcomed an interim decision by Judge Punt which supported the view that Dutch soldiers at Srebrenica should have evacuated Mustafic along with them because he was employed by the UN. Instead, according to the claimants, a Dutch personnel officer sent him away and he was captured by Bosnian Serbs.

In 2002, Dutch prime minister Wim Kok and his government resigned after a report found the state partly responsible for the fall of the UN-protected area.


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