Relatives of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre asked a Dutch court on Wednesday to wave the immunity of the United Nations and allow them to seek damages for their loss.
Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica after a lightly armed Dutch army unit serving as part of a larger U.N. force abandoned the town that had been declared a U.N. safe area.
Lawyers representing about 6,000 relatives of Srebrenica victims filed the civil case against the Dutch state and the United Nations last year.
"Functional immunity does not mean that international organisations are wholly above the law," said lawyer Axel Hagedorn. "Boundless immunity of the U.N. is both unacceptable and undesirable for the proper functioning and credibility of the U.N."
In November, the Hague court dismissed Dutch pleas that the case should be dropped after the United Nations invoked its legal immunity and said it would not take part.
Victims' families turned to the Dutch court for redress as Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, both wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges over Srebrenica, are still on the run.
"The Dutch battalion, which served as part of the United Nations, was responsible to protect innocent unarmed people," Munira Subasic, the president of an association of mothers of Srebrenica victims, told Reuters before travelling to The Hague.
"The genocide happened here under protection of the United Nations, before the eyes of the United Nations -- this means that everything happened in an organised way, not by accident."
Dutch government lawyer Bert-Jan Houtzagers said that U.N. immunity was important to allow it to exercise its duties without the interference of courts in member states.
He said the Netherlands was helping pay for the rebuilding of Srebrenica, but not because it felt it was to blame for the massacre.
"The Bosnian Serbs are the ones who are to blame, especially General Mladic. He is a war criminal," he said.
The court said it will rule on July 10 on the bid by the Dutch state to uphold the U.N.'s immunity.
The hearing on Wednesday comes after survivors of the massacre launched a separate case against the Dutch state on Monday, accusing it of negligence.
At a vigil outside the court on Monday, about 50 relatives and Srebrenica survivors held up a long banner inscribed with the names of the 8,106 victims.
The Dutch government led by Wim Kok resigned in 2002 after a report on the massacre blamed politicians for sending the Dutch U.N. troops on an impossible mission.
Last Mod: 18 Haziran 2008, 17:27