Srebrenica payout shameful, say families

Relatives of each of the three Bosnian Muslim men were granted €20,000 in compensation

The families of three victims of the Srebrenica massacre have reacted with fury at what they say is a “shameful” Dutch compensation award granted yesterday.

The Netherlands agreed to pay €20,000 (£16,500) to relatives of each of the three Bosnian Muslim men who were murdered, like thousands of others, by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled last September that the Netherlands was liable, because Dutch UN peacekeepers had turned the men over to the Bosnian Serbs, leading to the atrocity.

Liesbeth Zegveld, the families’ lawyer, accused the Dutch government yesterday of short-changing her clients, after a case that has taken years to pass through the courts. “Clearly the amount is so low that the state did not want to close this chapter,” she said. “It is shameful.”

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A separate Dutch case opened earlier this week, with 6,000 relatives of Srebrenica victims suing the government for failing to prevent the massacre. “They did not prevent the murder of thousands of civilians,” the group’s lawyer, Marco Gerritsen, told the district court in The Hague.

Dutch courts had previously refused to accept a request by a group called the Mothers of Srebrenica to prosecute the UN for the killings, saying the international organisation had immunity. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights agreed with the immunity decision. That opened the way for the civil proceedings against the state.

Yesterday’s compensation case was separate because the three men were working or linked with the Dutch UN base. One of the Bosnian men worked for the peacekeepers as an electrician, and the other two were the father and brother of an interpreter used by the troops.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops brushed aside the lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers in the “safe area” where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection. Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the following days and their bodies dumped in mass graves; the worst massacre on European soil since the Second World War.

The Dutch troops failed to intervene and subsequently withdrew.

In 2002, the Dutch government resigned after a report blamed the troops and senior military officials for not preventing the killings, allegedly ordered by Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader, and Ratko Mladic, the military commander.