AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch Supreme Court should overturn a ruling making the Netherlands partly liable for the deaths of about 300 Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995 during the Bosnian war, its advisor said on Friday.
The Supreme Court’s attorney-general Paul Vlas said a Dutch appeals court in 2017 had made an “incomprehensible” decision by upholding a verdict that Dutch peacekeepers had not done enough to protect the men seeking refuge at their U.N. base.
His opinion will be taken into account when the court makes its final ruling, expected on April 19.
Altogether 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic in Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two.
Many of the victims had fled to the U.N.-declared “safe zone” in Srebrenica, only to find the outnumbered Dutch troops there unable to defend them.
The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees, but said the peacekeepers had been on ‘mission impossible’.
The original verdict in 2014 ruled that Dutch soldiers should have known the men would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if they were forced to leave the base.
The Dutch state had asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 2017 ruling, which it can only do if it finds the lower court erred in law or procedure.
Vlas said the decision by the appeals court had ignored the threat of war facing the lightly-armed Dutchbat troops and the uncertain fate of the men if they had been allowed to stay on the base while supply lines were cut and the Dutch forced to leave at any moment.
“It would have been different if Dutchbat had known, or should have known, the men were facing certain death, or inhumane treatment”, he said. “But that was not the case.”
The appeals court in 2017 said the Netherlands should pay 30 percent of damages to relatives of the victims.
Mladic was convicted of war crimes and genocide and sentenced to life in prison by a U.N. court in November 2017.
Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Janet Lawrence