Srebrenica relatives pleased with Dutch verdict, but not satisfied

21/07/2014

Some believe that the verdict is the first step in exposing the truth about what happened in Srebrenica in 1995.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 21/07/14

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Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) demonstrate in The Hague on July 11th for justice for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]

Families of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica's massacre said they are only partly satisfied with last week's Dutch county court verdict, which ruled that the Dutch government was liable for 300 deaths in Europe's worst ethnically motivated mass murder since World War II.

The court ruled on July 16th that the Dutch battalion (sometimes referred to as Dutchbat) peacekeeping team shared in the responsibility for the deaths of the 300 men and boys and ''should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victim of genocide…Had the Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive.''

Edin Mustafic was only 5 years old when he saw his father and all the male members of his family for the last time.

"My mother, sister and I stayed in the Dutch bases area, and those outside it. Now, their bones are somewhere ... and we are still looking for them. This verdict practically showed that no one is responsible for their death. It's huge legal precedent, but I hope reality -- that the Netherlands is responsible for these victims -- will be proven. I am convinced in this because I grew up without any male member in family and my children do not have a grandfather, uncle, cousins," Mustafic told SETimes.

Senka Dagic from Srebrenica thinks that this is a first step which will show the truth of what happened in Srebrenica in 1995.

"The victims are all the same no matter which side of security zones they were on. The Dutch were able to resist and help all of them if they wanted to. They chose to be blind to the suffering of the people and gave their support to Ratko Mladic, whose army made a genocide killing more than 8,000 people," Dagic told SETimes.

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Bosnian Muslims, family members and survivors of the Srebrenica 1995 massacre attend a burial ceremony at a memorial cemetery in Potocarion near Srebrenica, on July 11th. An additional 175 newly identified bodies were put to rest during the mass ceremony. [AFP]

More than 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica were killed in total. The case concerns the events of July 1995, when Bosnian Serb forces overwhelmed fewer than 400 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers before taking control of a safe area around Srebrenica. Men and boys were rounded up and led to fields, where their hands were bound and they were shot. Their bodies were later buried in mass graves.

Munira Subasic, whose son was among those who took refuge in the Dutch compound but was expelled and then killed, welcomed the verdict but said that the judges should have ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for all the Srebrenica deaths.

"This judgment says that the Dutch government and the Ministry of Defence recognised the responsibility of genocide in Srebrenica, but only partly. They shared sacrifice to those who were in the camp and those who have run into the forest. However, our lawyers are going to continue this matter because all those who were in the 'safe area of Srebrenica' should be recognised as victims because they were under the protection of the UN,'' Subasic told SETimes. '

'We will not stop at this but this is still a very significant step because one European country such as the Netherlands admitted responsibility for the genocide. This is a historic event and a precedent, and it is very important for us because it opens the way to seek accountability for all the victims who were in Srebrenica at that time," Subasic said.

The court's decision may also pose legal risks for countries involved in international peacekeeping operations, as it holds the Dutch forces liable for events that the Netherlands has long argued were the responsibility of the killers, not of UN peacekeepers.

Camil Durakovic, president of Srebrenica municipality, said that this verdict is good as a basis for future cases and processes, but noted that Netherland is marginalising its responsibility and its role.

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"Their opinion is that they are only responsible for the battery factory, which they were guarding and in which about 300 people found shelter. And what about the 15,000 people who fled into the woods? I was among those people and I survived. One part of the family can be satisfied, but this verdict also showed that the Srebrenica massacre is an ignominy and shame for the whole world," Durakovic told SETimes.

Thirty Bosnian Serbs have so far been jailed over the massacres, while the trials of their political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are still ongoing.

Correspondent Bedrana Kaletovic in Tuzla contributed to this report.

Do you agree with the verdict to hold the Dutch government responsible for 300 deaths? Add your thoughts in the comment space below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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