Netherlands court backs decision not to prosecute Dutchbat soldiers over Srebrenica deaths

04 May 2015 by Stephanie van den Berg, Belgrade (Serbia)

A district court in the Netherlands last week confirmed a 2013 decision by prosecutors not to charge former Dutchbat commander Thom Karremans and two subordinates for three deaths in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The victims were among the nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims killed while under supposed protection by Dutch UN peacekeepers.

Dutchbat march on Veterans Day 2014 in The Hague (Photo: Flickr/faceme)
Image caption: 
Dutchbat march on Veterans Day 2014 in The Hague (Photo: Flickr/faceme)

The case hinged on the Blue Helmets’ responsibility for sending two men away from the base and, effectively, to their deaths at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces who overran the enclave that July.

In 2013, the Netherlands’ Supreme Court ruled that the state could be held liable for the deaths of these victims in a civil case seeking damages. However, prosecutors refused to charge individual Dutchbat officers in the criminal procedure that victims’ families tried to launch following the Supreme Court ruling. After much legal wrangling, last week’s ruling marks the final say in Dutch courts about criminal prosecution of Dutchbat soldiers over Srebrenica.

The judges explained that despite the findings of the Supreme Court in the civil procedure, individual criminal responsibility was a different matter, requiring a close look at what these specific officers at the base knew, or could have known, at crucial points.

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