Bid to prosecute Dutch Srebrenica commanders thrown out

Bid to prosecute Dutch Srebrenica commanders thrown out

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday dismissed a claim that Dutch commanders should be prosecuted for failing to prevent the deaths of three victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The pan-Europe court "unanimously declared the application inadmissible", in what it called a "final" decision.

The families of the three Bosnian Muslims, who were killed along with some 8,000 others after leaving the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers, had asked the ECHR in October 2015 to prosecute three ex-UN commanders for their deaths.

The plaintiffs say the men were forced to flee into the hands of the Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic -- himself now on trial for genocide and war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) based in The Hague.

The move came after a Dutch appeals court ruled that Dutch Battalion ("Dutchbat") commander Thom Karremans, his deputy Rob Franken and personnel officer Berend Oosterveen should not be prosecuted.

The ECHR concluded that Dutch authorities had already "sufficiently investigated" the peacekeepers' role in the massacre, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

The finding by the Dutch appeals court that the soldiers "had been unaware of the extent of the imminent massacre was consistent with the findings of the ICTY," the ECHR said.

"There was no lingering uncertainty as regards the nature and degree of involvement of the three servicemen and it was therefore impossible to conclude that the (previous) investigations had been ineffective or inadequate," the statement said.

- 'Undue pressure' from Dutch -

Dutch human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who represented the families, had questioned the independence of the earlier investigation, claiming that it had come under "undue pressure" from the Dutch defence ministry.

The complaint against the three Dutch officers was made by relatives of Muhamed Nuhanovic, his father Ibro, and Rizo Mustafic.

Nuhanovic, then 27, was employed as a translator for Dutchbat, and Mustafic as an electrician.

The Dutch government last year said it would pay the families 20,000 euros ($22,000) each in compensation after a civil court ruled that the state was indeed liable for the deaths.

"Light has now been shed. We find it very positive that the defendants can at last see an end to this affair," said a spokesman for the Dutch defence ministry, Klaas Meijer.

The role of Dutch blue helmets at Srebrenica has cast a long shadow in The Netherlands, with an entire cabinet resigning in 2002 after a report laid some blame for the atrocity on the government.

Even today, the massacre prompts endless soul-searching as to whether the men of Dutchbat could and should have done more to protect Srebrenica's Muslim population.

Some 2,000 Dutch soldiers served as peacekeepers at the height of the three-year conflict, which left 100,000 people dead and another 2.2 million homeless.

The ECHR, whose judges come from each of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, was established by the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights.