THE HAGUE (AFP) – More than 200 Dutch former UN peacekeepers are suing the government for damages for sending them to defend the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in 1995, after the defence minister called it a “mission impossible.”
“As from tomorrow (Tuesday), 206 of my clients are claiming compensation of 22,000 euros each,” their lawyer told Dutch late night talk show Jinek on Monday.
Total damages would amount to around 4.5 million euros ($5 million).
“They are still experiencing damages in all aspects of their lives and believe that the defence ministry should be held responsible,” lawyer Michael Ruperti added.
It comes as a key ruling is expected later Tuesday by the appeals court in The Hague.
A lower court ruled in 2014 that the Dutch state was liable for the deaths of over 300 Bosnian men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces on July 13, 1995 after they were expelled from the UN safe haven.
The Dutch state has appealed the verdict, saying nobody could have forseen that a genocide would take place.
And relatives of the victims in turn are calling for the state to be held liable for the deaths of most of the 8,000 men and boys slaughtered in the massacre.
Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II occurred when lightly armed UN Dutch peacekeepers were overrun by Bosnian Serb troops in the supposedly UN-protected “safe haven” of Srebrenica.
The killings have been denounced as an act of genocide by the UN court set up to try those behind the abuses of the Balkans wars.
And in the Netherlands the events still stir controversy, with questions remaining over the Dutch blue helmets’ role.
The Dutch troops, known as the “Dutchbat”, entrenched in their base, had taken in thousands of refugees from the enclave.
But overwhelmed they 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.
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.