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3Novices:Dutch state found partly liable for Srebrenica deaths

The Hague // A Dutch appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the state was partly to blame for the deaths of some 350 Muslim men in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia. In a landmark ruling, the court also ordered the Dutch state to pay limited damages.

"The court finds that the Dutch state acted unlawfully," judge Gepke Dulek said in an hour-long ruling, which largely upheld a 2014 decision by a lower court.

"The conclusion is that the Dutchbat [Dutch battalion of peacekeepers] knew that during the evacuations by the Bosnian Serbs, in separating the Muslim men and boys there was a real risk they could face inhumane treatment or execution," she said.

The Dutch soldiers had also "facilitated the separation of the men and the boys" among the refugees, she said, adding they should have been "warned of the risks and given the choice whether to stay in the enclave while their families were evacuated".

Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the 1995 genocide, Europe's worst atrocity since the Second World War.

It occurred on July 13, 1995 when lightly armed Dutch UN peacekeepers were overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.

The Dutch troops, entrenched in their base and surrounded by Bosnian Serbs, had taken in thousands of refugees from the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica.

Overwhelmed, the troops at first shut the gates to new arrivals, and then allowed the Bosnian Serbs to evacuate the refugees. The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths. They were lined up and shot, their bodies dumped in mass graves.

Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert last year admitted the battalion had been sent to Bosnia "without adequate preparation... without the proper means, with little information, to protect a peace that no longer existed."

"It was an unrealistic mission, in impossible circumstances," she said.

Both the Dutch state and the relatives of victims were appealing against the 2014 verdict of a lower court which found that the state was liable for the deaths of about 350 men who were sent off the base along with other refugees.

The victims, represented by the Mothers of Srebrenica, had demanded that the Dutch be found responsible for most of the deaths.

Some shouted angrily as the judge upheld the original ruling - that the Dutch shared blame only for the fate of the 350 or so men and boys who left the Dutch base with their families for evacuation.

Tuesday's ruling also deemed the Dutch state to be liable for some 30 percent of any damages awarde. It stopped short of awarding full compensation as it "was uncertain" whether the men would have survived if they had remained inside the compound.

Both parties can appeal further to the Supreme Court, and the Dutch defence ministry said it would carefully read the judgement.

* Agence France-Presse
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