The ghosts of Srebrenica reappear

22 November 2004 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

Almost ten years after Bosnian Serb forces massacred nearly eight thousand Bosnians in Srebrenica, their ghosts continue to prick the conscience of the powerful western countries in charge of protecting them under the UN banner.

Civil actions have recently been filed in the Netherlands and France to try and gain recognition of collective responsibility and to claim compensation for victims. While one case is being brought against the UN in France, a turning point in the search for collective legal responsibility in the Netherlands has been reached.

In a decision of 28 October, an appeals court allowed the relatives of people killed in Srebrenica in 1995 to examine six high-ranking Dutch officials as witnesses in a preliminary procedure against the Dutch state. Among the wit- nesses to be called is former Minister of Defence Joris Voorhoeve and members of the military chain of command of the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica under the UN flag, including Thomas Karremans, head of the Dutch UN battalion (Dutchbat). The preliminary hearing, a date for which has not yet been set, will give them the opportunity to find out whether there is a basis to hold the Dutch state responsible for the failure of Dutchbat to protect the Srebrenica safe haven.

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