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Dutch are blamed.

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Bosnian Muslims who lost family members in the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica argued in a court in The Netherlands yesterday that the Dutch state was liable for its troops' failure to protect their loved ones. They claimed the United Nations Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) charged with protecting the enclave, had handed Muslim refugees over to Bosnian Serb forces - violating its mandate and several national laws and international treaties.

The Dutch state was liable for this failure as it exercised full command over the military at the time, argued advocate Liesbeth Zegveld for the Muslim plaintiffs. "Dutchbat was professionally charged with the safety of civilians," she told a panel of four judges in the district court of The Hague. "They had a humanitarian assignment, but they acted contrary to their instructions."

Srebrenica was a United Nations-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces who loaded thousands of men and boys onto trucks, executed an estimated 8,000 and threw their bodies into mass graves. The Serbs brushed aside lightly-armed Dutch UN peacekeepers in the "safe area" where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection from attacks.

At the court in The Hague are Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his parents and younger brother, 20, in the attack, as well as Mehida, Damir and Alma Mustafic, the widow and children of another victim, Rizo Mustafic. Nuhanovic, then 27, was in 1995 employed as a translator for Dutchbat in Srebrenica. Mustafic was an electrician on the nearby Dutch base in Potocari.

Both men's families sought safety from Dutch troops, but claim they were forced to flee - into the hands of the Bosnian Serb enemy. Zegveld argued the Dutch troops were under United Nations orders to help protect the refugees.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jun 17, 2008
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