World Bulletin / News Desk
The Dutch state on Thursday appealed against a court ruling which found it liable for the deaths of over 300 Bosnians during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying nobody could have foreseen the massacre.
"Nobody would have thought that a genocide could possibly take place in Europe in 1995," government lawyer Bert-Jan Houtzagers told an appeals court in The Hague.
Relatives of the victims, who first initiated the case, are also appealing the 2014 ruling, calling for the Dutch state to be held liable for the deaths of all 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed at the UN-protected enclave in eastern Bosnia during the bloody 1992-95 civil war.
Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica victims group, who lost 22 members of her extended family, said: "We have nothing against the Dutch people."
"But we feel the soldiers and particularly the commanders had an absolute duty to protect us," she told AFP speaking through an interpreter.
In 2014, a court in The Hague ruled the Dutch peacekeepers should not have expelled 300 Bosnian Muslims on July 30 1995 from their UN base at Potocari near Srebrenica after it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.
The Dutch state was therefore held liable for their deaths.
But arguing the Dutch were responsible for all the almost 8,000 deaths, the families' lawyer Marco Gerritsen said the Dutch troops had "placed their safety above everything else."
"They did not carry out United Nations instructions to protect citizens and fight back," Gerritsen told the court on Thursday.
"Instead they knowingly handed men and boys over to their killers," on July 13, 1995, said another lawyer for the families, Simon van der Sluijs.
The court in The Hague said it would rule on both appeals on March 14 next year.
Events around Srebrenica have cast a long shadow in The Netherlands, forcing a cabinet resignation in 2002 ,and were seen as a major failure on the part of the United Nations.
But the Dutch state has squarely placed the blame for Europe's worst post-World War II massacre on the shoulders of Bosnian Serb troops.
"It was a situation in which the Bosnian Serbs had the upper hand, and the Dutchbat (Dutch UN battalion) only could steer the situation as best they could," Houtzagers said.
More than 100,000 people died and some 2.2 million others were uprooted in the bitter 1992-95 conflict triggered by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
About 100 former Dutchbat soldiers, as they are known, have also said they may sue the government, after the defence ministry admitted they had been sent on a "mission impossible."
Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ekim 2016, 19:34