On July 10—one day before the 13th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre—a Dutch court ruled it has no jurisdiction in a civil suit against the United Nations by genocide survivors from the eastern Bosnian town. Survivors’ association Mothers of Srebrenica is seeking compensation for the failure of Dutch UN troops to prevent the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 civilians in the so-called “safe area.” The Hague District Court found the UN’s “absolute immunity” means it cannot be held liable in any country’s national court.
At a hearing last month, Dutch government lawyer Bert Jan Houtzagers said that if a Dutch court found it had jurisdiction in the case, “any court in any country could do so and that would thwart the viability of the United Nations.” Axel Hagedorn, a lawyer for the survivors, said he would appeal the decision. “The court ruled that the UN has immunity, even if a genocide has happened, and that is in our opinion exactly what you can’t accept,” Hagedorn said. The case could go to the European Court of Human Rights. A civil case against the Dutch state will proceed in September. (Bosnia News, Reuters, July 10)
Tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims are expected to gather in Srebrenica today for a commemoration of the massacre, at which the remains of 307 newly identified victims, aged between 15 and 84, will be buried. Their remains were exhumed from mass graves and identified by DNA analysis. So far some 2,900 Srebrenica victims have been buried at the memorial built in 2003. Wanted for their roles in the massacre, as well as other war crimes, Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic are still at large. (AFP, July 11)
On July 3, the Appeals Chamber of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) cleared the former commander of the Muslim-led forces at Srebrenica, Naser Oric, of war crimes against Serbs. In 2006, Oric was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for failing to stop men under his command from killing and torturing Serbs in and around Srebrenica. Having spent three years in detention awaiting trial, he was released immediately. At his acquittal last week, he said he regarded his actions as part of “the struggle to survive under a total occupation.” (Radio Netherlands, July 3)
Srebrenica Genocide Blog relates the grim propaganda war being waged over the facts of the massacre. Milivoje Ivanisevic, president of the Belgrade Center for Investigating Crimes Committed against the Serbs, is proffering claims that Oric’s forces killed over 3,000 Serbs in villages around Srebrenica. These are dismissed as grossly inflated by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, a “non-partisan institution with a multiethnic staff, whose data have been collected, processed, checked, compared and evaluated by international team of experts.” Ivanisevic’s claims are also contradicted by the Bosnian Serb Republic’s own findings and records.
It is agreed by all sides that Serbs suffered a number of casualties during military forays led by Naser Oric, considering that Serbs used surrounding villages around Srebrenica to launch attacks on Srebrenica. The controversy over the nature and number of the casualties came to a head in 2005, the 10th anniversary of the massacre. According to Human Rights Watch, the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party “launched an aggressive campaign to prove that Muslims had committed crimes against thousands of Serbs in the area” which “was intended to diminish the significance of the July 1995 crime.”
This campaign has apparently been useful to the Dutch government:
The ARBiH [Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina] raids are presented as a key motivating factor for the July 1995 genocide. This view is echoed by international sources including the 2002 report commissioned by the Dutch government on events leading to the fall of Srebrenica (the NIOD report).
But Srebrenica Genocide Blog closes with a quote from the 1998 Report of the UN Secretary-General on the Fall of Srebrenica, which found:
Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it… The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create a geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of ‘moral equivalency’ through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.