Bosnians call on UN to accept Serb massacre responsibility

The Dutch court began hearings to decide if surviving family members of the victims of a 1995 Srebrenica massacre could sue the United Nations for failing to prevent the killings.

Bosnians call on UN to accept Serb massacre responsibility

A lawyer representing relatives of those killed in the Srebrenica massacre told a Dutch court on Thursday the United Nations must accept responsibility for the mass execution, carried out by Serbs during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

The Dutch court began hearings to decide if surviving family members of the victims of a 1995 Srebrenica massacre could sue the United Nations for failing to prevent the killings.

Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslims in one week in July 1995, overrunning the Srebrenica enclave that had been declared a United Nations "safe zone."

Dutch peacekeepers failed to intervene as the male victims were led away from their custody for execution.

The Mothers of Srebrenica, survivors of the men and boys killed in 1995, are among those seeking compensation from the United Nations and the Dutch state in the civil lawsuit in a local court.

The plaintiffs accuse the UN and the Netherlands of failing to take effective action to prevent the massacre, thus violating the UN Convention on genocide.

In July 2008, the Hague-based court found the United Nations enjoyed immunity over the massacre. Whether or not the Dutch state also has immunity remains to be decided.

Thursday's hearing at the District Court in The Hague, which is expected to take some two hours, deals only with the appeal against the UN's immunity.

"Morally unacceptable"

Marco Gerritsen, representing 6,000 relatives of the victims, told an appeals hearing in The Hague families had sought truth, recognition and compensation for 15 years and criticised the U.N. for not being prepared to defend itself in court.

"This attitude of the U.N. is evidence of the little respect shown to the thousands of victims who were abused, deported and murdered despite the presence of the U.N. soldiers," Gerritsen said.

Gerritsen also criticised the Dutch state on Thursday, accusing it of playing a double role.

He said the Netherlands argued it could not be held accountable for the events at Srebrenica and was shifting the responsibility to the United Nations while at the same time arguing in favour of the U.N.'s immunity.

"The consequence of this ... is that the 6,000 surviving relatives of the victims of the genocide have nowhere to turn," Gerritsen said, adding that this was "humanely, morally and legally unacceptable."

Lawyers representing the Srebrenica relatives are seeking a ruling that the U.N. does not have immunity and is liable for the killings. They have vowed to take the case to the European Court of Justice if it is not settled by the Dutch legal system.

Thursday's hearing dealt only with the appeal against U.N. immunity, while the issue of whether the Dutch state also had immunity was still to be decided.

Agencies

Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2010, 16:04
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