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Srebrenica massacre: Dutch supreme court set to rule on liability

Media captionWhat happened at Srebrenica? Explained in under two minutes

The Dutch supreme court is to give a final ruling on Friday on whether the Netherlands is partially liable for deaths in Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre.

The case hinges on around 300 Muslim men who were executed by Bosnian Serb forces after being handed over by Dutch UN troops.

The 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 liable for failures in UN peacekeeping work.

In 2002, a report into the Netherlands’ role at Srebrenica caused the entire Dutch government to resign.

The UN itself was ruled to be immune from prosecution.

What happened at Srebrenica?

During the Bosnian War (1992-1995), the Serb army was engaged in an ethnic-cleaning operation.

Thousands of Muslims sought safety in Srebrenica, which the UN was protecting with the Dutch forces.

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AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

A woman with newly identified victims’ bodies in 2019

But the lightly armed peacekeepers capitulated during a violent offensive and expelled hundreds of men from the UN base.

What have the courts said?

A lower court has previously ruled that the Dutch were liable, as the soldiers should have known that giving in to the Serb demands would condemn the Muslims to death.

In 2017, an appeals court largely upheld that ruling, but declared that the state could not be completely responsible as many of the men would have been killed regardless.

Since the killings, Dutch governments have argued that their troops were on a “mission impossible”.

Timeline of Srebrenica siege

6-8 July 1995: Bosnian Serb forces start shelling Srebrenica enclave

9 July: Bosnian Serbs step up shelling; thousands of Bosnian Muslim refugees flee to Srebrenica

10 July: Dutch peacekeepers request UN air support after Bosnian Serbs shell Dutch positions. Large crowds of refugees gather around Dutch positions

11 July: More than 20,000 refugees flee to main Dutch base at Potocari. Serbs threaten to kill Dutch hostages and shell refugees after Dutch F-16 fighters bomb Serb positions. Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic enters Srebrenica and delivers ultimatum that Muslims must hand over weapons

12 July: An estimated 23,000 women and children are deported to Muslim territory; men aged 12-77 taken “for interrogation” and held in trucks and warehouses

13 July: First killings of unarmed Muslims take place near village of Kravica. Peacekeepers hand over some 5,000 Muslims sheltering at Dutch base in exchange for the release of 14 Dutch peacekeepers held by Bosnian Serbs

14 July: Reports of massacres start to emerge

Srebrenica massacre: Dutch supreme court set to rule on liability

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