A Dutch appeals court on Tuesday confirmed that the Netherlands was partly liable for the deaths of some 300 Muslim males who were expelled from a Dutch U.N. base after the surrounding area was overrun by Bosnian Serb troops.
Tuesday's ruling is the latest in a string of legal cases in the Netherlands concerning the country's role in the Srebrenica massacre and whether the country's soldiers could or should have done more to prevent the mass killings.
The ruling by the Hague Appeals Court upholds a 2014 decision that Dutch peace-keepers should have known that the men seeking refuge at the base near Srebrenica would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if they were forced to leave - as they were.
Reading the complex ruling, Presiding Judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said that Dutch soldiers "knew or should have known that the men were not only being screened ... but were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution." The ruling relates only to the 300 men who had sought safety on the Dutch-controlled base.
In a departure from the earlier ruling, it said the Netherlands should pay only 30 percent of damages, as it estimated the odds at 70 percent that the victims would have been dragged from the base and killed regardless of what the Dutch soldiers did.
The amount of damages is determined in a separate procedure unless the victims and the state can reach a settlement.
Dutch state lawyers left the court building without commenting on the ruling. The Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect the refugees, though the Netherlands maintains that the Bosnian Serbs, not Dutch troops, bear responsibility for the killings.
On July 13, 1995, Dutch peacekeepers bowed to pressure from Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic and forced thousands of Muslims out of their fenced-off compound, where they had sought refuge.
The Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away and began killing them in what would become the bloody climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a slaughter that international courts have ruled was genocide. The war claimed 100,000 lives in all.
The Srebrenica bodies were plowed into hastily made mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide the evidence. Mladic is on trial for genocide and other offenses at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre and other crimes during the war.
The court rejected an appeal from relatives of other Srebrenica victims, who argued the Dutch government should be held responsible for the protection of thousands more Muslims who had gathered outside the base.
"This is a great injustice," said Munira Subasic of the "Mothers of Srebrenica" group. "The Dutch state should take its responsibility for our victims because they could have kept them all safe on the Dutchbat [Dutch battalions'] compound."